(San Salvador) A political storm shakes El Salvador after Parliament voted to dismiss Supreme Court judges hostile to President Najib Boukil, a decision the opposition described as a coup and sparked international concerns.
The president’s allies, who had won an absolute majority since elections in February, during their inauguration on Saturday, sacked all judges of the Supreme Court’s Constitutional Chamber for issuing “arbitrary” rulings.
Parliamentarians also voted in favor of sacking El Salvador’s attorney general, Raul Millara, who is considered close to an opposition party.
And the people of El Salvador said through their representatives: Respected! Mr. Buckili, who has been in power since 2019, welcomed this Central American country as it undermined the traditional political class that had been discredited by corruption issues.
The 39-year-old president, notorious for his desire to fight organized crime and insecurity, has opposed the Supreme Court and the Attorney General’s Office several times.
The dismissed judges, who were immediately appointed by the majority representatives who would replace them, refused to leave their posts, citing “the unconstitutionality of the dismissal decree.”
Minority in Parliament, the right-wing Arena Party and the ex-far-left guerrilla party of the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) condemned the coup attempt.
René Portillo, elected from the Arena to Parliament, responded: “What happened last night in the Legislative Assembly with a majority that the people gave for themselves through voting is a coup.” “As a parliamentary group, we will not be complicit in this coup,” added Annabelle Peloso, a fellow in the FMLN.
The United States criticized the measure and warned that it could undermine El Salvador’s relations with the United States.
Secretary of State Anthony Blinken spoke to Neb Buckley by phone on Sunday, expressing Washington’s “grave concern” and “indicating that independence of the judiciary is essential for democratic governance.”
He also criticized the dismissal of Raul Millara, “who fights corruption and impunity and is an effective partner in fighting crime in the United States and El Salvador.”
“I condemn the actions taken by the political authority to dismantle and weaken the judicial independence of judges by removing members of the Constitutional Chamber,” Diego Garcia Sayan, the UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, wrote on Twitter.
The Organization of American States (OAS) also denounced this measure, stating that “full respect for the rule of law is essential.” “The measures that have led to its erosion and the annexation of the judiciary will only lead to an unjust society based on impunity and political persecution,” she said in a statement.
Several NGOs also raised the alarm.
This is a very risky situation. “We are playing with fire and this can give this crisis a magnitude that we will not be able to get out of it,” said Miguel Montenegro, Coordinator of the Commission on Human Rights.
According to Human Rights Watch executive director José Miguel Vivanco, “Buckili violates the rule of law and is trying to concentrate all powers in his hands.”
Mr. Buckley was elected in 2019 to a five-year term, and since the February parliamentary elections he has controlled 61 of the 84 seats in the unicameral Congress, a situation unprecedented since the 1992 peace accords that ended 12 years of civil war.
The authoritarian tendencies of President Buckily – he went so far as to storm Parliament a year ago, accompanied by police officers and armed soldiers, to pressure the deputies – aroused strong criticism from his opponents.