Transparency Commissioner Presents Appeal to the Supreme Court
On April 23 the President of El Salvador, Nayib Bukele, ordered the immediate dismissal of Claudia Liduvina Escobar Campos, then Commissioner of the Institute for Access to Public Information (IAIP), accusing her of committing “probable acts [that] seriously affect the operation of the IAIP and breach of its functions.” On Thursday, April 29, Ms. Escobar presented an appeal before the Supreme Court of Justice for the unjustified dismissal. At the same time, US solidarity organizations issued a statement in support of Ms. Escobar, echoing her complaints and demanding an investigation. Read the full statement in Spanish here.
Prior to her removal from office, Claudia Liduvina Escobar issued a statement denouncing attacks by fellow IAIP commissioners appointed by President Bukele, calling it "a strategy of pressure and harassment." Escobar believes that her public statements regarding setbacks in transparency during the current administration and her ongoing defense of public access to information have been interpreted as a threat by administration officials. The dismissal occurs during a post-electoral period that has been marked by an increase in political persecution with misogynistic undertones against people who have denounced setbacks in transparency, human rights, and democracy in the country.
Escobar was appointed as a Commissioner to IAIP in 2019 through a democratic, participatory and transparent process by a broad coalition of trade unions who turned out to vote. During her tenure, she has been publicly critical of initiatives and reforms promoted by the Executive and its designated officials in the IAIP that have attempted to wear away advancements in transparency. Escobar has been forthcoming during interviews with news outlets about the drop in hearings, resolutions, and the weakened state of the Institute, describing it as a “passive, silenced, and stagnant entity.”
According to Escobar, she has been the victim of constant persecution since the month of February, at the hands of IAIP commissioners, Ricardo José Gómez, Javier Suárez Magaña, and Roxana Seledonia Soriano, appointed by the President behind closed doors.
According to Escobar's statements, the actions against her consisted of blocking her access to institutional work due to alleged complaints by the staff; blocking access to internal information of the organization; discrediting her and unfounded accusations to staff; attacks through legal procedures; and accusations of leaking information to the press and civil society.
The former Commissioner also denounced that the harassment responds to her position of pointing out "any illegality and internal arbitrariness" and "institutional setbacks" that are detrimental to the institution's purpose, for which she made a call to "be vigilant." "We need and deserve an IAIP that is independent and autonomous" for the exercise of the Right to Public Information in the country, explained the former official.
Escobar asserts that no evidence has been made available to substantiate the accusations nor are these contemplated in the Access to Public Information Law as a reason for dismissal. Nevertheless, she stated that she will not rest until proving that she is a target of marginalization and discrimination for “being a woman that seeks to ensure that the Institution respects people’s right to be informed in an effective way.”
In a statement, solidarity organizations, among them, the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES), Central American Resource Center (CARECEN-LA), DC International Womxns Alliance (DIWA), SHARE Foundation, US-El Salvador Sister Cities, and Voices on the Border, condemned the unjust dismissal and a series of decisions that have “demonstrated an evident set back in issues of transparency and access to public information.”
Liduvina Escobar is a Feminist Unionist with a specialization in Gender and Feminism from the UNAM - Autonomous University of Mexico; she was also Secretary-General of the Ministry of Labor and Social Prevent Union (SITRAMITPS, for the name in Spanish) from 2012 to 2014, and is the co-founder of the Association of Feminist Unionist Febe Elizabeth Velásquez. Since she became commissioner, she had led efforts in gender and transparency at the institute.
In a statement CISPES Program Director, Samantha Pineda expressed that “The recent firing of Claudia Liduvina Escobar as Commissioner of the IAIP is not only unjustified but also signals a concerning setback in issues related to government transparency. It also sends a clear message to those who dare attempt to hold the administration accountable, that they could become targets of persecution and slander.” She went on to say, “we are calling on the corresponding officials to launch an independent investigation and determine those responsible for this unjust dismissal which has clear signs of political persecution.”
The Institute for Public Access to Information was created in 2011 and is tasked with implementing the Law for Public Access to Information (LAIP), the initiative was proposed by the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front administration and approved in 2010 with the objective of strengthening transparency and guaranteeing accountability by all government institutions.