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LatinNews Daily - 10 May 2021

EL SALVADOR: Civil society urges OAS intervention

On 7 May a group of local civil society organisations in El Salvador appealed to the Organization of American States (OAS) to convene its permanent council to “restore the constitutional order” in the country after the government-controlled legislature’s dismissal of the five judges sitting on the constitutional chamber of the supreme court (CSJ) and the attorney general, Raúl Melara.

Analysis:

There has been no shortage of international criticism following the opening salvos of the new legislative assembly dominated by President Nayib Bukele’s Nuevas Ideas (NI) party. The secretary general of the OAS, Luis Almagro, has himself been critical of the summary dismissal of the CSJ magistrates and Melara but there is no sign yet that his words will be followed by actions.

  • The civil society groups, who have denounced “fraud against the constitution”, also urged the state to reject the resignations which they said had been tendered in “an irregular manner” in the face of intimidation and threats. Carlos Sergio Avilés, one of the fired magistrates, said in an interview with the local current affairs magazine Factum on 7 May that El Salvador was in a “legal limbo”, and faced the dissolution of democracy under Bukele.
  • On the same day, Bukele presided over a swearing-in ceremony for 130 cadets at the Escuela Militar Capitán General Gerardo Barrios, in Antiguo Cuscatlán, a municipality in the department of La Libertad on the outskirts of San Salvador, to mark ‘the day of the soldier’ in El Salvador. He pointedly thanked the armed forces for protecting the country from “our internal and external enemies”.
  • Bukele did not specify who he had in mind beyond a reference to “a tiny minority who make a lot of noise”. This could be the 20 local civil society organisations that have been fiercely critical of the dismissals, along with the national business association (Anep), and the main opposition parties, the right-wing Alianza Republicana Nacionalista (Arena) and the left-wing Frente Farabundo Martí para la Liberación Nacional (FMLN).

Looking Ahead: The civil society organisations are calling upon the OAS to invoke the Inter-American Democratic Charter.