Embassy Threatens US Development Aid Again, This Time over Salvadoran Judicial Conflict

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For the last two weeks, US Ambassador Mari Carmen Aponte has yet again threatened to deny El Salvador $300 million in Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) development funds, this time over a conflict between two Chambers of the nation's Supreme Court. Over the last year, MCC funding has proven an effective instrument of US intervention, with Aponte publicly ransoming its approval on numerous occasions for the passage of the US-backed privatization legislation, the Public-Private Partnership (P3) Law. “The generation of a stable investment climate that brings sustainable economic development for the country is one of our priorities… The rule of law and the strength of institutions are among the criteria that the MCC observes to make the important decisions in making a new pact,” Aponte warned Salvadoran media in a press conference on Wednesday, August 21. The dispute began when the controversial "Fantastic Four" magistrates of the Supreme Court’s Constitutional Chamber ordered the Administrative Disputes Chamber to reject a suit that challenged the legality of the four magistrates’ own appointments to the bench. The Administrative Disputes Chamber accepted the case and denounced the “Fantastic Four” for overstepping their legal jurisdiction. As in the past, the US has defended the polemic actions of the Constitutional Chamber. “We have been clear that the Constitutional Chamber’s decisions must be respected for the good of the country’s institutionality,” said Aponte. Indeed, in July 2012, two US Senators threatened MCC funds to El Salvador over a conflict between the Constitutional Chamber and the National Legislative Assembly instigated by the Salvadoran right-wing as part of an ongoing strategy to destabilize the current government. President Funes, however, denied the Ambassador’s claims that the $300 million MCC grant was in danger, saying that as of last week, negotiations between the two countries were progressing smoothly towards a final decision in September. Magistrate Evelyn Nuñez of the Court’s Administrative Disputes Chamber also dismissed Aponte’s remarks, saying the conflict was overblown: “She represents her country’s interests, and if she sees it as a problem, well that would be a shame, but really it’s not an issue.” Nevertheless, the Ambassador’s threats have been amplified in headlines across the nation’s right-wing media. With the 2014 presidential elections on the horizon, the right-wing Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) party and the Catholic Church took the opportunity to defend the “Fantastic Four” and accuse the governing leftist Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) party of both instigating the conflict and being unfit to manage it. ARENA presidential candidate Norman Quijano deemed the situation “serious,” saying that, “this has been the norm under the FMLN government, this political instability and legal instability that has harmed us so much.”

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