Human rights and judicial experts have criticized lawmakers aligned with El Salvador’s populist president Nayib Bukele for voting to remove top judges from the Supreme Court, a move they say seeks to eliminate any opposition to the firm’s takeover by Bukele.
On Saturday, the legislature voted to remove all judges from the Supreme Court’s constitutional chamber for “arbitrary” decisions.
Lawmakers also voted to remove Attorney General Raul Melara, considered close to an opposition party.
Bukele’s Nuevas Ideas party and its allies have an absolute majority in the chamber after them. he overwhelmingly won legislative polls in February.
“And the people of El Salvador, through their representatives, said, ‘UNDO!’ Bukele tweeted after the vote.
Elisa Rosales, legislative leader of New Ideas, said this step needed to be taken to address COVID-19.
He said there is “clear evidence” that the five judges had obstructed the government’s health strategy and that lawmakers had to withdraw them to protect the public.
A few minutes after the vote, the judges responded with a ruling declaring the decision of Congress unconstitutional and establishing a clash between the country’s highest powers.
Several human rights groups and experts have sounded the alarm, accusing the president of leading El Salvador to a political crisis.
“Bukele is breaking with the rule of law and looking to concentrate all power in his hands,” Jose Miguel Vivanco, executive director of Human Rights Watch’s America division, said on Twitter.
“It simply came to our notice then. That [Congress] it plays with fire and can deepen this crisis to such an extent that we will not be able to get out of it, “Miguel Montenegro, coordinator of the human rights commission, told AFP news agency.
The Organization of American States also said it condemned the removal of judges, saying “maximum respect for the rule of law is fundamental.”
“I condemn the steps that political power has been taking to dismantle and weaken the judicial independence of judges by dismissing members of the constitutional chamber,” also tweeted Diego Garcia-Sayan, UN special rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers. the vow.
Statement by the OAS General Secretariat on the situation in El Salvador
– OAS (@OAS_official) May 2, 2021
‘It’s none of your business’
Civil society groups had warned before the February 28 election that if Bukele’s party worked well, the results could accelerate the deterioration of the country’s democratic institutions.
But many voters expressed frustration with the more traditional political parties that had maintained control in El Salvador since the end of the country’s 12-year civil war in 1992 – and said that supported Bukele’s party because he promised to fight corruption.
Just after midnight on Sunday, Bukele said on Twitter that while El Salvador wants to work with the international community, it should get out of the country’s affairs.
“To our friends in the international community: we want to work with you, trade, travel, get to know each other and help where we can. Our doors are more open than ever. But with all due respect: we are cleaning our house … and that is not your thing, ”he said he tweeted.
However, Salvadoran opposition lawmakers accused Nuevas Ideas of carrying out a coup attempt.
“What happened last night in the Legislative Assembly, with a majority that people gave them through voting, is a coup,” said right-wing Arena Party lawmaker René Portillo .
U.S. lawmakers and President Joe Biden’s administration officials also condemned the vote.
Earlier this week, the Biden administration pledged $ 310 million in aid in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala to curb the migratory tide to the United States.
“Let’s be clear: this is not democracy, it’s the destruction of an independent judiciary and the rule of law,” said Congressman Jim McGovern. he tweeted, while Juan González, Biden’s senior advisor for Latin America, said, “That’s not what you do.”
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Sunday he had spoken with Bukele to raise “serious concerns” about the Congressional vote. “Democratic governance requires respect for the separation of powers, for the good of all Salvadorans,” Blinken tweeted.
He spoke today with the Salvadoran president @NayibBukele to express serious concerns about yesterday’s move to undermine El Salvador’s highest court and Attorney General Melara. Democratic governance requires respect for the separation of powers, for the good of all Salvadorans.
– Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) May 2, 2021