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House Democrat says she sleeps with gun nearby after clashing with El Salvador’s president

Rep. Norma Torres (D-Calif.) said in a new interview that she sleeps with a gun nearby after receiving “hateful messages” for clashing with El Salvador’s president on Twitter.

Torres, 56, is the only member of Congress born in Central America and the co-chairwoman of the Central Americans Caucus. She spoke with the Los Angeles Times for a story published Thursday about trading barbs with El Salvadorian President Nayib Bukele on issues of migration and human rights.

One tweet from last month included a photograph of a Salvadoran father and his young daughter who drowned attempting to cross the Rio Grande River into the U.S.

“This is a result of narcissistic dictators like you interested in being ‘cool’ while people flee by the 1000s & die by the 100s,” she wrote.

Bukele responded by calling on Latin Americans living in California’s 35th District to vote Torres out of office. 

“She does not work for you, but to keep our countries underdeveloped,” he tweeted in Spanish.

Torres told the Times that Bukele also launched a campaign to flood her district office with phone calls, making it difficult for her constituents to reach her staff.

After that, the House Democrat said her social media accounts were inundated with hateful messages and images defending the wildly popular president, and now she sleeps with a firearm near her.

The messages were also laced with racism and misogyny against women and Indigenous people, according to the Times.

The Salvadoran Embassy in Washington did not respond to the newspaper’s requests for comment.

Several U.S. officials had jumped to Torres’s defense last month.

Ricardo Zuniga, President Biden’s special envoy for the Northern Triangle, testified before a House subcommittee that Bukele’s actions could be seen as election interference by a foreign power.

“And my message is that that is wrong in their country, and that is not acceptable in our country,” Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-Calif.), chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, told the outlet. “And they messed with the wrong woman.”

State Department officials have reportedly become increasingly concerned about Bukele’s “authoritarian tendencies in repressing free speech and media and in consolidating power to silence critics,” according to the Times. 

Bukele refused to meet with Zuniga in April unless the administration ceases its criticism of his government. He was previously denied a meeting with Biden after traveling to Washington unannounced around the inauguration.

As Vice President Harris and the Biden administration embark on diplomatic relations with Northern Triangle countries — Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador — in an attempt to stem the flow of migrants to the southern border, Torres has urged caution.

“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,” she told the Times.

“All the Northern Triangle countries are in the same predicament: You have strongmen, and I can’t see a difference between the former president and the new one. It’s the past repeating itself in each country,” she added.

Tags Central America El Salvador Joe Biden Nayib Bukele Norma Torres Northern Triangle Raul Ruiz
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