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Salvadoran-Canadian writer arrested in El Salvador has been released

By Sarah Kinosian and Nelson Renteria

SAN SALVADOR (Reuters) -A Salvadoran-Canadian writer who was arrested in El Salvador for reading aloud the constitution inside a voting center on Sunday to protest the participation of President Nayib Bukele has been released from jail, his lawyer confirmed on Wednesday.

The arrest of Carlos Bucio, 57, on Sunday over accusations of disorderly conduct was criticized by rights groups as a worrying escalation in a country where critics already say they fear the consequences of speaking out against Bukele.

It comes amid concerns over an erosion in El Salvador's democracy, after judges hand-picked by Bukele purged the top court to pave the way for his re-election.

Bukele, powered by a sophisticated media machine, is known for lashing out against critics. He accused journalists and international rights organizations of trying to undermine him in his speech following elections.

Bucio's lawyer, Emperatriz Flores, told journalists that Bucio was pulled from his cell and told to call someone to come pick him up.

Bukele declared victory for the presidency in Sunday's election and appeared to have secured a landslide win in early results, although vote-counting remains ongoing due to what the electoral authority called "multiple actions that have hampered the development of the transmission of preliminary results."

Bukele is popular with many Salvadorans after he led a crackdown on gang violence and his New Ideas party is expected to maintain its super majority in the congress.

"This is the first time in history that El Salvador has had democracy," said Bukele on Sunday in his victory speech. "And I'm not saying it, the people say it."

El Salvador has had a democratic government since 1992 peace accords that ended a civil war. Bukele, however, has tapped into voter resentment against the country's two main legacy parties, which look set to receive single-digit support in the final election results.

Bucio, 57, who lives in Canada and has Canadian citizenship but was in the Central American country for the election, was detained in a jail in the south of San Salvador, according to his sister Lucia Bucio Borja, who also lives in Canada.

She said earlier on Wednesday he had been fed and given a book and would be released soon, citing the family's lawyer.

The Canadian embassy in El Salvador said it was aware of Bucio's release and that it had been in touch with him and his family.

The Human Rights Institute of the Central American University (Idhuca) had demanded Bucio's release, saying his arrest was worrying for freedom of thought and expression in El Salvador.

(Reporting by Sarah Konosian and Nelson Renteria in San Salvador; Editing by Stephen Coates and Christopher Cushing)