El Salvador’s lawyers and human rights groups have recently been sworn in as an irreparable blow to the country’s once fragile, fragile democracy. the legislators removed the officials from key offices over the weekend.
The charge of the country’s chief prosecutor and Constitutional Court judge removes two controls over the power of President Nayib Bukele’s administration. strengthening control over democratic institutions Since taking office in June 2019.
Salvadoran human rights defender Celia Medrano said she also wants the government to “keep itself in power and suppress any opposition.”
In a country recovering from a 12-year civil war that ended in 1992 and left 75,000 dead, Saturday’s parliamentary vote serves to rekindle old memories of a time of repression and human rights violations and a reminder of fragility. the democratic system of the country.
“It all indicates that there will be a long period of darkness in the country when it comes to democracy,” Medrano told Al Jazeera.
‘Set an example’
Bukel won the presidency in 2019 he filed an appeal against the anti-corruption platform to voters who are disgusted with the country’s two traditional parties, the left-wing FMLN and the right-wing ARENA. But without the help of the country’s legislators, many of his proposals were blocked in office for the first two years.
Organizations such as the Constitutional Court, the Office of the Attorney General, and the Ombudsman used to act as a control over their power.
In February, Bukele’s Nuevas Ideas or New Ideas party. He won 56 of the 84 seats after giving a tremendous display of voter support in the national assembly. When MPs took office on May 1, they quickly – and opposed the constitution – according to legal experts – dismissed five Constitutional Court judges and Attorney General Raul Melara.
The new assembly has already appointed five new judges to court. The three dismissed judges then resigned, citing personal reasons, but not before declaring their unconstitutionality to resign.
“With that, the legislature is setting an example. They tell all other officials, ‘If you question the president’s view, you too can be removed,’ ”said Manuel Escalante, a lawyer at the Institute of Human Rights at the University of Central America (IDHUCA).
Bukel and his supporters argued that action was necessary to free the country from the corrupt officials of past administrations. “The people didn’t send us to negotiate. They are leaving. All of them, ”Bukele he tweeted on May 3rd.
Also turned on TwitterSuecy Callejas Estrada, one of the legislators of Nuevas Ideas who led the initiative, argued that the decision was constitutional, citing three articles in support of his argument.
However, legal experts have refuted this interpretation of the constitution, which establishes the process of removing officials from office, but legal experts say only under limited conditions that are not met.
Officials may be removed from office for “specific reasons established by law” and the process of examining new candidates to fill positions that have just resigned must be followed. The new legislators put that aside in an ad hoc process, according to Escalante.
“The explanations given by the assembly on Saturday were not at any point legal explanations based on the legal system,” he said. “Instead, what they stated was simply a disagreement with the constitutional court [the justices] they did not agree with the president’s constitutional interpretation. “
Escalant added: “Their actions indicate that the only one who interprets the constitution correctly is the president.”
Moreover, the timing of the removal of the Attorney General suggests a political motive, according to Medrano. “It is important to remove the chief prosecutor from office at a time when he was investigating serious acts of corruption and the current government’s links to organized crime,” he told Al Jazeera.
The President’s Office did not respond to the request for comment.
International human rights groups and U.S. officials immediately condemned El Salvador’s actions.
US Vice President Kamala Harris Directing the efforts of the Biden administration to stop migration to work with countries in Mexico and Central America, he said the administration has “deep concerns” about the events. “Independent judiciary is key to achieving a healthy democracy and a strong economy,” he tweeted on May 2nd.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken echoed those concerns in a call with Bukele on Sunday, the State Department said in a statement, while the USAID development agency said independent justice is “a necessary condition to fight corruption and attract investment” to El Salvador.
Bukel denied the criticism, however.
“To the friends of the international community: we want to work with you, do business, travel and get to know us and help you in whatever way we can. Our doors are wider than ever. But with all due respect: we are cleaning our house … and that is not your business, ”he tweeted on Saturday.
To our friends in the international community:
We want to work with you, trade, travel, get to know each other and help you wherever we can.
Our doors are wider than ever.
But with all due respect:
We are cleaning our house.
… and that’s not your business.
– Nayib Bukele 🇸🇻 (@nayibbukele) May 2, 2021
El Salvador’s constitutional crisis The Biden administration has promised to prioritize strong democratic institutions in Central America.
“A clear message is coming from the United States and I think that’s important,” said Geoff Thale, president of the Latin American Office in Washington (WOLA), a nonprofit organization that promotes human rights in the region. “But now they have to think about actions.”
Punishing corrupt government officials and pursuing Bukele’s interests – trade and the economy – are two potential avenues the U.S. can pursue with its commitment to building democracy, Thale told Al Jazeera.
Meanwhile, Salvadoran lawyers and human rights groups who want to deal with the latest moves now have the perfect path. Previously, they could appeal to the Constitutional Court – but no more.
“Taking control of these institutions,” Escalante said, “forces us to deal with a situation that does not find anyone who seeks justice or seeks to control the abuses of executive power.”