A crisis between powers, with Parliament dismissing Supreme Court judges and the attorney general with support from the President of the Republic.
In this case, the president tried to impose strict lockdown measures against the coronavirus, but saw his attempts blocked by judges.
The episode took place in El Salvador this weekend, and had repercussions among Brazilian politicians.
On Saturday (01/05), the Legislative Assembly (the Parliament of El Salvador) approved by a large majority – 64 of the 84 deputies voted in favor – the dismissal of the five magistrates of the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice (CSJ). The members of this Chamber form one third of the CSJ.
According to analysts, the measure has expanded the powers of President Nayib Bukele, whose New Ideals party forms a majority in the Legislative Assembly of El Salvador.
But the controversial vote provoked a torrent of national and international condemnations. Critics consider that the decision violates the independence of the powers of the State organs and lacks legal support.
Among the critics is the government of the United States, El Salvador’s main trading partner, which has already contacted President Bukele to express his “serious concerns” about what happened.
In Brazil, the dismissal of magistrates by Congress was praised by deputy Eduardo Bolsonaro (PSL-SP), son of President Jair Bolsonaro.
“President of El Salvador Nayib Bukele has a majority of parliamentarians in his support. Now, Congress has dismissed all the supreme court ministers for interfering in the executive, all constitutional. Judges judge cases, if they want to dictate policies that take to the streets to get elected.” wrote Eduardo Bolsonaro on Twitter on Sunday (02/05).
Along with this text, Eduardo Bolsonaro retweeted a message written by the president of El Salvador.
“To our friends in the International Community: we want to work with you, negotiate, travel, get to know each other and help in whatever way we can. Our doors are more open than ever. But with all due respect: we are cleaning our house … and that is not it’s your business, “wrote Bukele.
Eduardo Bolsonaro makes no mention of the fact that Bukele is trying to impose restrictions such as lockdown, contrary to what he defends. In Brazil, the Federal Supreme Court (STF) gave more powers to states and municipalities to enact lockdowns and quarantines, contrary to the will of President Jair Bolsonaro, who has been speaking out against these measures.
The president’s son’s message was criticized by the former president of the Chamber of Deputies, Rodrigo Maia (no party-RJ), who also wrote on Twitter: “Very serious commentary of Mr Eduardo Bolsonaro”.
What happened in El Salvador?
The dismissal of the judges came just hours after a new Congress took office on Saturday. In elections held in March, the New Ideas party, held by the president of El Salvador, had won more than two-thirds of the seats, giving the president broad powers.
Soon after Saturday’s decision, parliamentarians also approved by absolute majority the dismissal of the Attorney General of the Republic, Raúl Melara.
Parliamentarians invoked Article 186 of the Salvadoran Constitution, which provides that the Legislative Assembly can dismiss magistrates “for specific reasons, previously established by law” if the initiative has the support of two-thirds of the deputies.
One of the reasons for the fight between Bukele and the magistrates of the CSJ Constitutional Chamber is the pandemic.
Novas Ideias’ deputy, Elisa Rosales, argued that the judges needed to be removed because they are disrupting the government’s strategy to contain the coronavirus pandemic.
In April of last year, Bukele had said he would disregard a CSJ decision. The Salvadoran president had decreed a lockdown due to the pandemic and promised to arrest anyone who violated the restrictions. Some people were being held for up to 30 days in makeshift quarantine centers in hotels. However, CSJ judges decided that the government would have no power to arrest anyone who violated the lockdown and quarantine.
In August last year, the president stated on the national network that, “if he were really a dictator”, he would have shot the magistrates for declaring the ordinances he had issued on lockdown unconstitutional.
This weekend, Elisa Rosales said that the dismissal of magistrates is a way to protect Salvadorans.
What was the reaction?
The Supreme Court of Justice itself issued a note over the weekend: “It is declared that the decision of the Legislative Assembly (…) is unconstitutional, insofar as it violates the republican, democratic and representative form of government”.
But on Sunday afternoon, the social networks of the Constitutional Chamber and the CSJ erased the resolution published by the dismissed magistrates and posted the first photo of the five new elected officials.
Opposition parliamentarians denounced the dismissal of the judges. Anabel Bollose, of the left-wing FMLN party, called the act a “coup”. The opposition has long accused President Bukele of having authoritarian tendencies and undermining El Salvador’s separation of power and its system of checks and balances.
There were also demonstrations on the streets in El Salvador against the dismissal of the judges.
The independent human rights organization Human Rights Watch described the action as an “attack on democracy” that broke the rule of law and sought to concentrate “all power” in the hands of President Bukele.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called President Bukele on Sunday to express his “serious concern”. According to the State Department, Blinken told Bukele that “an independent judiciary is essential for democratic governance”.
United States Vice President Kamala Harris also expressed her concerns in a tweet on Sunday.
“We are deeply concerned about the democracy of El Salvador, in light of the vote of the National Assembly to remove the judges from the Constitutional Court. An independent judiciary is essential for a healthy democracy – and for a strong economy,” wrote the American vice president.
The Organization of American States (OAS) rejected the resignations, recalling that “in democracy, majorities have a responsibility to be fundamental guarantors to guarantee respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms; access to power and its exercise subject to the rule of law. ; the plural regime of political parties and organizations; and the separation and independence of public powers “.
“When the majorities impose a single and uniform vision for the rest of the political system, they are undermining these principles. When the majorities eliminate the systems of checks and balances in the institutional framework, they are changing the essence of their functioning,” he said. added in a statement.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) also criticized the dismissals “without due process or specific constitutional causes, which jeopardizes the rule of law” in El Salvador.
Who is Nayib Bukele?
Born on July 24, 1981 in the capital, San Salvador, and of Palestinian descent, Nayib Bukele was elected in 2019 at the age of 37. Considered a political outsider, he promised to bring “a new era” to El Salvador.
An astute user of social media, he projected a youthful image and against traditional politics. Bukele promised to break with the left-wing foreign policy alliances that his predecessor in office, Salvador Sánchez Cerén, forged. The politician said he would prioritize El Salvador’s ties to the U.S. (at the time ruled by Donald Trump) and that he would closely examine the recently established relations between El Salvador and China.
Its main platform was the fight against criminal gangs. He said he wanted to use education and social programs to keep young people out of violent gangs. He appointed eight women to important government positions, seven of them as ministers.
His arrival in power ended nearly three decades of disputes between only two parties in El Salvador: the leftist Farabundo Marti Frente de Liberación Nacional (FMLN) and the conservative Arena party, which have alternated in power since the end of the country’s civil war. , in 1992. Bukele was affiliated with the leftist FMLN but was expelled from the acronym for disrespecting women’s rights and throwing an apple at a local community leader.
His party, Novas Ideias, was formed in 2018, and did not even have time to participate in the previous parliamentary election. But in March of this year, the acronym was the big winner of the legislative election, giving Bukele control of Congress.
The fight against the pandemic yields Bukele high rates of popular approval. The president was quick to introduce strict restrictions on movement and commercial activity early in the pandemic.
The measures yielded criticism from the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, who accused him of “restricting freedoms” through the use of “military force” against those who disrespected the lockdown. The opposition in El Salvador constantly criticizes Bukele and his party for having authoritarian inclinations.
In February 2020, parliamentarians from El Salvador accused the president of staging a “coup attempt” after he entered the Legislative Assembly accompanied by armed police and soldiers. Bukele rejected the criticism saying that “if I had been a dictator, I would have taken control of everything”.
But the fact that El Salvador has so far had fewer covid-19 infections and deaths than many of its Central American neighbors has translated into stronger support for Novas Ideias among the electorate.
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