Resolution of Supreme Court crisis breaks ARENA's control of judiciary

News

Reporting on this important news from August slipped through the cracks as the CISPES Medical Brigade was hard at work with the Community Health Teams in Chalatenango.

After nearly three months of uncertainty about who would fill 10 of the 15 Supreme Court seats, Funes announced that a cross-partisan agreement had been reached to end the conflict between the Salvadoran Legislative Assembly and the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court. Following 17 rounds of negotiations over 27 days, in which the right-wing Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) party pitted itself against every other party, an agreement was finally mediated by Funes himself between representatives of all parties.

The agreement stipulated that the Assembly would ratify the ten Supreme Court magistrates and their ten alternates whose elections in 2006 and 2012 had been ruled unconstitutional by the Constitutional Chamber in June, along with a decision to elect José Salomón Padilla as President of both the Supreme Court and its Constitutional Chamber. The election of Padilla, who is openly sympathetic toward the leftist Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) party, constitutes a severe blow to the historic right-wing domination of the courts.

In addition, the FMLN along with the Grand Alliance for National Unity (GANA), the National Reconciliation (CN) party, and the Hope Party (PES) voted to approve a Constitutional reform mandating that each sitting legislature elect only one round of magistrates per term, thus clarifying the legal gray area that gave root to the conflict. ARENA, in an apparent reversal of its initial posture, opposed the reform, lending further credence to critiques that the right-wing party, fearful of losing its hold on the judicial branch of the Salvadoran government, was acting to generate destabilization and chaos. Despite US conservatives’ efforts to use the crisis to demonize the FMLN and undermine the administration, it was ARENA who lost political credibility as the lone opposition to a resolution with strong cross-partisan support.

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