The Congress of El Salvador re-elects the president of the Supreme Court: what are the 3 controversial aspects of that decision?

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Lawyer Óscar López Jerez will preside over the Supreme Court of Justice of El Salvador and will head the Constitutional Chamber, for the period 2021-2024, by majority decision of the Legislative Assembly of the Central American country.

But the appointment, which had 64 votes in favor and 19 abstentions, it is not without controversy. It was López Jerez who assumed those same positions on May 1, after the parliamentary majority of New Ideas (the party of President Nayib Bukele) assumed its functions in the Legislative Assembly.

That first appointment in May, considered irregular by the opposition, was harshly criticized by the US and put the Bukele government in the crossfire with accusations of authoritarianism, which have been denied by the president. Now, the reelection of López Jerez for those positions predicts new political turmoil by three factors key: the hegemony of the ruling party, national and international questions and the strained relationship with Washington.

1. Bukele and his hegemony

At the end of February, the landslide electoral victory that Bukele was assured by the parliamentary majority had already sounded an alarm to his political detractors. Thanks to this victory at the polls, the New Ideas party won 56 of the 84 seats in the Assembly, which gives its bench an unprecedented capacity for legislative maneuvering.

For this reason, in their first parliamentary session, the new deputies proceeded to dismiss the Attorney General and five magistrates of the Constitutional Chamber, and appointed their substitutes, among them, the now newly elected López Jerez. Although the Magna Carta authorized them to do so, the removal process was considered irregular, since it did not include a prior debate or the defense of those who lost their positions.

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On that occasion, the Salvadoran president not only celebrated the decision but also settled any possibility of going backwards. “The people said: we give them enough votes to that they do not have to negotiate with anyone and for them to make decisions on the first day, if necessary, “was Bukele’s unique interpretation of the extensive powers of his bench in the Assembly.

In addition to the ratification of the appointment of López Jerez, the parliamentarians also appointed five magistrates who will replace those who leave today, June 30, for having served their 9-year term on the Supreme Court. The new gowns are: Sandra Luz Chicas de Fuentes, José Ernesto Clímaco Valiente, Miguel Ángel Flores Durel, Alex David Marroquín Martínez and Enrique Alberto Portillo Peña.

In the early hours of this Wednesday, Bukele supported the appointments in the Judiciary and resorted to the argument that the legislative majority of his party had been elected by the voters, which, in his opinion, gives legitimacy to any decision.

“The Salvadoran people elected in full democracy the correlation of the Assembly. Your decisions are completely legitimate and they represent the power of the people, “he pointed out on his Twitter account. However, he qualified the sentence, arguing that” even “the lists of postulates left by the opposition parties were respected.

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2. Criticisms for irregularities

Faced with the New Ideas ‘steamroller’, the only votes against were from the 14 deputies of the right-wing Nationalist Republican Alliance (Arena) party, four from the former guerrilla Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) and the only parliamentarian from the Nuestro party. Weather.

The main accusation of the opposition has to do with the “concentration of power” by the government, according to deputy Dina Argueta, of the FMLN.

For his part, René Portillo, from ARENA, alleged that the name of López Jerez was not even on the charts of proposed candidates and who, in addition, had already been appointed to the Judiciary, in 2015, to serve a nine-year term that was to end in 2024. For opponents of the ruling party, Bukele intends to screw the magistrate into a position without submitted to the legal process.

Beyond the criticisms of a diminished opposition in Parliament, there were also voices in the international arena that questioned the decisions of the Legislative Assembly, such as the director of Human Rights Watch, José Miguel Vivanco.

“I am concerned about the appointment of judges to be made tonight by the National Assembly (controlled by Bukele). In a rule of law, judges must be appointed through a transparent and previously established process that guarantees their independence”, He said on his Twitter account.

3. The tension with the US.

The eve of the controversial vote was marked by another fact that does not go unnoticed: the announcement of the visit of a high-level delegation from the US in El Salvador.

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The American business manager in the Central American country, Jean Manes, confirmed the arrival of the delegation in the early hours of the morning and announced that “an important day” awaited its members. The presence of the entourage occurs at a time when the tension between Bukele and the Joe Biden administration is evident.

The key issue is that the first clash between the two governments occurred precisely as a result of the parliamentary move on May 1. On that occasion, the White House rejected the decision and asked the Salvadoran administration to reverse it. Bukele’s answer was a resounding no. In the following days, the suspension of aid to the Central American Government by USAID, the diversion of funds to “civil organizations” and the inclusion of several Central American officials on a list of “involved in significant acts of corruption“They finished heating the fire.

However, the main US interest with El Salvador has to do with the migratory phenomenon in Central America. In a release published yesterday by the State Department it was detailed that the purpose of the delegation is to meet with Bukele and “other political leaders”, to argue about migration, democracy and regional goals“.

Manes, for his part, insisted that the visit of the US delegation opens up a “great opportunity” for El Salvador, “if he wants to take it”, a gesture that shows Washington’s effort to deal with a left-handed partner who does not It gives many samples of submission. However, the controversial changes in the Judiciary seem to reaffirm that, for the moment, the Salvadoran Assembly is not afraid to give the White House another upset.

Nazareth Balbás

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