Nayib Bukele’s main controversies in El Salvador

(CNN Spanish) — El Salvador President Nayib Bukele, who has currently received permission from the assembly to campaign for re-election, wants to be the first to repeat the situation in the Central American country’s recent democracy. His decision to seek a second term is one of several that has generated controversy.

candidacy for re-election

Bukele’s candidacy is based on a controversial ruling issued by the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court in September 2021, under the rationale that competition does not mean that he will be elected, but rather that the people will have several options: he The person who exercises the office of President. In the decision, the magistrates say it is Salvadorans who will decide, through their vote, whether Bukele gets a second consecutive term as president.

The magistrates who handed down the ruling were appointed on May 1, 2021, the first day of work for the legislative assembly controlled by Bukele’s party Nuevas Ideas.

The President announced on September 15, 2022 that he would run for reelection, although the Constitution of El Salvador prohibits immediate reelection in at least six articles.

The magistrates established in the decision that to prevent a president seeking re-election from failing to assume office, he must leave office six months before the start of a new term. That is why Bukele obtained special permission from the Legislative Assembly to dedicate himself to the electoral campaign and appointed his personal secretary, Claudia Juana Rodríguez de Guevara, as head of the Presidential Office.

This decision is causing a lot of stir and different types of opinions are coming forward. Bukele’s officials and allies applaud the magistrate’s decision. Many academics and jurists call it unconstitutional because the Constitution of El Salvador prohibits it in at least six articles. For example, Article 88 establishes that a change in the exercise of the presidency of the Republic is necessary to maintain the form of government and the political system.

Critics recall that in 2013 Bukele said in an interview that he would not run for re-election because the constitution does not allow anyone to serve as president consecutively.

Clash between Bukele and Petro over megaprison

Colombia’s President Gustavo Petro and El Salvador’s Naib Bukele clash on social networks in March 2023.

Petro strongly criticized the terrorism detention center, a megajail that the El Salvador government built with a capacity of 40,000 prisoners, and Bukele defended the work which he considers a fundamental part in his war against gangs.

Bukele justified, “From more than 100 murders per 100,000 inhabitants, we are now in single-digit figures.”

For his part, Petrou suggested Bukele to organize an international forum to compare experiences. The president said, “We went from 90 murders per 100,000 inhabitants in Bogotá in 1993 to 13 murders per 100,000 inhabitants in 2022. We did not build prisons but universities.”

The huge Salvadoran prison has eight modules. According to officials, each cell has a capacity of 5,000 prisoners and each cell houses a little more than 100 prisoners.

exception rule

The exception rule is a legal tool the El Salvador government has used to detain more than 75,000 people as of early January for alleged ties to gangs.

The regime suspended constitutional guarantees by increasing the length of provisional detention from 72 hours to 15 days or interfering with telecommunications without a judge’s approval, among other measures.

The decision was approved by the Legislative Assembly at the request of the executive in March 2022 in response to an increase in violence, with 62 killings in a single day, the most violent day in Bukele’s administration.

This increase in violence came as government officials were negotiating a truce with the gangs, following an unclassified indictment filed in early 2023 in federal court in the Eastern District of New York against 13 high-ranking gang members of the Mara Salvatrucha. According.

The Salvadoran government, which has not acknowledged attempts to negotiate with gangs, credits the emergency regime for reducing violence levels to reach the safest year in history in 2023, he assured. Authorities report that the murder rate fell to 2.4 per 100,000 residents last year. In 2022 it was 7.8 and in 2021 it was 18.1 per 100,000 population.

However, many local and foreign NGOs criticized the government and requested the revocation of the state of emergency without success as they believe it is a violation of human rights.

Bukele entered the Legislative Assembly

In February 2020, Nayib Bukele stormed the headquarters of the Legislative Branch with police and soldiers armed with assault rifles, in order to pressure delegates to hold an extraordinary session in which they could approve a loan to finance the modernization of the forces. Will approve.

The delegates described the President’s actions as an attempted coup. In November 2019, the government of El Salvador requested authorization from the Legislative Assembly for a US$109 million loan contract to finance the third part of the Territorial Control Plan.

Several opposition representatives refused to vote in favor as they said they had doubts about the destination of the funds and wanted more clarification from the government.

Measures due to Covid-19

In 2020, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Bukele government approved several decrees that restricted population mobility and ordered mandatory home quarantines to prevent the spread of the virus. The police and army were empowered to arrest anyone out on the streets without any reason.

The quarantine also empowered the Directorate General of Immigration and Immigration to ban the entry of foreigners into the country “except for diplomats and residents” who had to complete 30 days of isolation upon finding that they were carriers of the coronavirus.

However, the presidential orders were suspended by the Supreme Court, which ordered the National Civil Police (PNC) and the Armed Forces to stop detaining people accused of violating the mandatory national quarantine in health prevention centers.

The magistrates established that the measures should be regulated in a law and not an executive decree. From that moment on, a political battle began between the government, the Legislative Assembly and the Supreme Court due to the health emergency.

In the 2021 legislative and municipal elections, Bukele’s party won an absolute majority in the Assembly and upon taking office on 1 May, the new representatives dismissed the Constitutional Chamber’s magistrates and the Attorney General.

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