Press Release: Civil Society, United Nations Raise Red Flags as President Tramples Separation of Powers
For immediate release
Contact: Alexis Stoumbelis, Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador
(202) 521-2510 ext. 205, [email protected]
Human rights organizations in El Salvador, political parties and institutions on both the left and the right and international bodies including the UN High Commission on Human Rights decried actions over the weekend by President of El Salvador, Nayib Bukele, to use military force to compel legislators to attend an extraordinary legislative session he convened for Sunday, February 9, in order to approve a $109 million loan to fund his national security plan.
On Friday, Bukele threatened legislators who did not comply and incited the public, via Twitter, to exercise their constitutional right to popular insurrection if legislators did not comply with his order, despite its dubious Constitutional grounds.
Bukele then deployed members of the Armed Forces into the legislative palace for the first time since El Salvador’s brutal civil war. On Sunday, social media networks were ablaze with photos and videos of heavily armed soldiers flanking mostly empty seats in the legislative hall.
Bukele invoked the constitutional authority granted to the Council of Ministers to convene the legislature “when the interests of the Republic demand it.” But as the Foundation for the Application and Study of the Law (FESPAD), responded, “the impossibility of the [executive] obtaining financing from the Legislative Assembly [for its initiatives] is nothing out of the ordinary and doesn’t meet the criteria that the [Constitution] establishes.”
Both the right-wing Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) and the leftist Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) - El Salvador's largest political parties - condemned the president for using military force to intervene in legislative decisions. Members of both parties have also reported harassment by National Civilian Police agents.
According to Yesenia Portillo, organizer with the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES), “This should be a wake-up call to the international community about the danger that Bukele represents to democracy in El Salvador. His deployment of the military in an attempt to force the legislature to do his bidding should cause everyone to take seriously the concerns that women’s organizations, labor unions and other grassroots groups have been voicing from the very beginning about a potential return to authoritarianism in El Salvador.”
Bukele’s critics in El Salvador have suggested that his actions are a form of extreme political theater meant to distract from the recent headlines hammering the government for failing to resolve an acute drinking water crisis, as well as revelations that the Attorney General is investigating members of the administration for collusion with gangs during his tenure as mayor of San Salvador.