translated from Spanish: El Salvador: new Legislative Assembly, afin to Bukele, dismisses Constitutional judges and attorney general

The Legislative Assembly of El Salvador, now controlled by President Nayib Bukele’s party, New Ideas, dismissed this Saturday the judges of the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice (CSJ).

In the first action taken by the new congress just hours after taking office, the parliamentarians accepted with 64 votes in favour, 19 against and one absentee, to dismiss both the titular judges and the suplements of one of the judicial bodies that had issued verdicts contrary to President Nayib Bukele’s policies.

A few hours later, they also filed a motion for the dismissal of attorney general, Raúl Melara, which was also approved by an absolute majority.

The measure, according to experts consulted by BBC Mundo, will allow Bukele to take control of the three powers of the state, after an absolute majority was made in the unicameral parliament of 84 seats.

They already had two powers. It was logical to search for the third power“Salvadoran political analyst Bessy Rios tells BBC World.

“It’s an unreleased situation, it’s never happened before. but they have the votes, they have the constitutional mandate. They can do it.“, he points out.

Shortly after the vote, the Court issued a statement in which it considered “unconstitutional“the measure, which was a clash between the independent powers of the state.

Bukele, for his part, brazened the judges’ opinion.

The Salvadoran opposition harshly criticized the measure and called it a “coup d’coup.”

“Fully evidence of his quest for total power, his first motion in the Legislative Assembly to dismiss the CSJ Constitutional Chamber, nullifies the separation of powers and burying El Salvador as a Republic,” said Erick Salguero, president of the opposition Arena party.

The U.S. government was among the first to position itself on the measure.

“We see with concern the proposal of some members of the Legislative Assembly to dismiss the five judges of the Constitutional Chamber of El Salvador. An independent judicial body is the foundation of every democracy; no democracy can survive without that,” Julie Chung, acting undersecretary of the U.S. State Department’s Office of Western Hemisphere Affairs, wrote on Twitter.

The arguments

The congressmen who supported the dismissal, for their part, ensured that “the current judges of the Constitutional Chamber acted against the Constitution, putting private interests first over the health and life of the entire population.”

They considered that the judges put the population “in danger by not complying with the measures that have been used internationally.”

On the attorney general they considered that he had “links” with the opposition Nationalist Republican Alliance (Arena) which “calls into question its objectivity, independence and impartiality”.

After the prosecutor’s dismissal, after a brief recess, congressmen expeditiously approved the appointment of Rodolfo Antonio Delgado as Republic’s new prosecutor.

Nayib Bukele’s new ideas party achieved an unpublished result in the elections to the Legislative Assembly in El Salvador. IMAGE SOURCE: GETTY IMAGES

The representative held the decision through Twitter and considered the institution to be “an UNCONTOVERTIBLE power expressed CLEARLY” in the Constitution.

Bukele had repeatedly accused constitutional judges of taking away his powers to attend to the pandemic.

In August last year, he stated at the national network that, “if he were indeed a dictator,” he would have shot the magistrates for declaring the decrees he had issued during the coronavirus confinement unconstitutional.

Last year, the Washington Office on Latin American, a U.S.-based human rights study center, felt that Bukele had “distorted the content of judges’ decisions by building a narrative that places them as enemies of citizenship.”

Was the dismissal legal?

Although the new Assembly was tasked with electing a third of the Supreme Court judges and later the attorney general and other officials, the move taken by the legislature, as Rios explains, is based on the figure of the “dismissal”.

According to the Salvadoran Maga Charter, CSJ magistrates and other public officials may be dismissed by the Legislative Assembly on specific grounds, pre-established by law.

Members also filed a motion to dismiss the Attorney General. IMAGE SOURCE: GETTY IMAGES

Both the election and the dismissal must be taken with the favourable vote of at least two-thirds of the elected Members.

“The judges of the Supreme Court of Justice are elected by the Assembly and the Assembly in the same way that it elects them, ” explains Ríos.

“Personally I think the criteria under which they are taking this article to dismiss are not as robust, but legally they have 64 votes and we in El Salvador have 46 votes as a simple majority, 56 votes as a majority votes as a qualified majority and 64 as an absolute majority,” he says.

The political scientist considers, however, that the measure, while legal, has questionable ethical points.

“It’s still a human rights thing, but legally they’re doing the formal procedure attached to the right. Ethically, no,” he says.

Original source in Spanish

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