El Salvador plans mass firing of culture ministry employees

El Salvador's President Nayib Bukele takes part in the launch of Google El Salvador in San Salvador

SAN SALVADOR (Reuters) -El Salvador President Nayib Bukele said on Thursday that the culture ministry would fire 300 employees who he said were promoting agendas "incompatible" with the government's vision.

"Furthermore, we will save public funds in the process," Bukele said on X. "Bitter medicine."

Bukele did not elaborate. But last week he appointed Raul Castillo, a former teacher, as culture minister, saying that he wanted to "promote patriotic and family values."

Ruling party lawmaker Alexia Rivas wrote on X shortly after Bukele's post: "El Salvador is pro-life, pro-traditional family and the 2030 agenda has no place here," an apparent reference to the United Nations Sustainable Development Agenda which includes provisions for a range of human rights.

"This is what the people asked for, this is the vision of our president, and this is the path that officials must follow," she said.

El Salvador maintains some of the world's harshest anti-abortion laws, while earlier this month, the culture ministry canceled a play by drag artists after receiving complaints from local conservative and religious groups.

Bukele took office at the start of June for a second term after winning a landslide re-election, pledging to cure the "illnesses" of the Central American country by prescribing "medicine" to fix the economy, following what he described as a cure for the "cancer of the gangs" during his first term.

Bukele garnered massive popularity for transforming security in a country that was once one of the world's most dangerous, but use of mass trials, a mega prison and suspended civil rights have drawn criticism from human rights groups.

A former marketing professional, Bukele has created a powerful communications operation that has allowed him to influence what Salvadorans read, watch and hear about their government like no previous leader in the nation of 6.5 million people in the internet age.

Critics say Bukele's media juggernaut is helping to undermine the country's fragile democratic institutions.

(Reporting by Nelson Renteria; Writing by Sarah Morland; Editing by Brendan O'Boyle and Rosalba O'Brien)