A California congresswoman says she started sleeping with a 9-millimeter pistol by her bed after getting into a Twitter beef with a Central American leader.
U.S. Rep. Norma Torres, a Democrat from Pomona, California, told the Los Angeles Times that the social media feud with El Salvador President Nayib Bukele started after she spoke out about the migrant crisis. She said tensions have escalated to the point where she is concerned for her safety.
“I need to do everything I can do to protect myself in my home,” Torres said.
An immigrant from Guatemala, Torres, 56, is the only member of Congress born in Central America. She said she became a target for harassment for calling out “dictators” from the Northern Triangle of countries in that region, which include Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. The Times reported that Torres “has worked to put restrictions on military aid” to those nations and has urged President Joe Biden not to send funding to the central governments she deems corrupt.
“These three countries have set an example for all of Latin America that it is OK for presidents, for congresses, to sit on their hands and watch their children die en route to our southern border,” Torres told The Times.
According to The Times, Bukele, 39, became “furious” after he and Torres exchanged “an angry torrent of tweets” and “urged Salvadorans in Southern California, an enormous community, to work to oust Torres from office.”
Pres.@nayibbukele—I'll make it clearer. This is a result of narcissistic dictators like you interested in being “cool” while people flee by the 1000s & die by the 100s.
Send me a pair of glasses so I may see the suffering of your people through your eyes.https://t.co/eBCahxNzmM pic.twitter.com/F4O173fYcZ
— Rep. Norma Torres (@NormaJTorres) April 2, 2021
FOX 11 News reported that Torres says she has been the recipient of threats directed by Bukele, and strangers have been staking out her house.
“The response has been one of a very violent, insecure, narcissistic leader in that Northern Triangle who has utilized his army of trolls against me,” said Torres.
The L.A. Times reported:
Torres says Bukele also mounted a campaign to flood her district office with phone calls to make it difficult for constituents to reach harassed staffers. The Salvadoran Embassy in Washington did not respond to requests for comment.
The congresswoman believes there is cause for concern that some Bukele supporters might turn violent; her social media accounts are inundated with hateful messages and images. And so she sleeps with her gun nearby.
Twitter users defending Bukele have flooded Torres’ Twitter mentions, threatened her life, and mocked her Indigenous features, FOX 11 reported.
“This is exactly what is happening to women in these regions that are being controlled by these dictators,” Torres said in a virtual interview broadcast on the outlet.
Espero que todos mis hermanos salvadoreños, mexicanos, hondureños, guatemaltecos, dominicanos, venezolanos y todos los latinoamericanos del Distrito 35 de California NO VOTEN por @NormaJTorres.
No trabaja para ustedes, sino para mantener a nuestros países en el subdesarrollo.
— Nayib Bukele 🇸🇻 (@nayibbukele) April 2, 2021
Ricardo Zuniga, Biden’s special envoy for the Northern Triangle, described Bukele’s tactics as election interference.
Congresswoman Torres told FOX 11 that Bukele stopped tweeting at her after the U.S. Agency for International Development announced that it would redirect aid from El Salvador’s national police and public information institute to civil society groups.
According to The Times, “Bukele is wildly popular in El Salvador, but State Department and other U.S. officials said he has shown increasingly authoritarian tendencies in repressing free speech and media and in consolidating power to silence critics.”