Corruption, El Salvador Government, ElectionSV2021, human rights, News Highlights

A BLOW TO DEMOCRACY IN EL SALVADOR

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With urgency and with little consideration, the new Legislative Assembly, which took office on May 1st, decided to dismiss the magistrates of the highest Constitutional Court of El Salvador. These are the same judges who in the past issued resolutions to regulate the overareaches of Executive power during the pandemic and who had not been well-liked by President Nayib Bukele.

Salvadoran law establishes that the Legislative Assembly is empowered to remove magistrates; however, this type of decision must follow a process based on specific causes established in the Constitution itself. The fact that President Bukele disagreed with the resolutions passed by the Supreme Court is not a legal reason to have the entire apparatus removed.

Immediately after the dismissal, the Assembly appointed new magistrates to take office. And just like that, the new judges entered the building of the Supreme Court of Justice, accompanied by high ranking members of the National Police. The Assembly then proceeded in the exact same way to replace the Attorney General of the Republic.

Due to the harassing manner, the unjustified causes and the illegality of these decisions, reactions were swift. International organizations, lawyers, social organizations, universities and opposition parties denounced this as an attempted coup by the Legislative Assembly, with orders coming directly from the top.

In this regard, the Salvadoran human rights defender and former candidate for the secretariat of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), Celia Medrano, stated: “For those who still had doubts about the consequences of giving more power to those who already had it, or for those who still await restrained actions from an executive branch that has already tried to coerce another organ of the State with military force; what happened this May 1st makes clear that the last pillar of weak democratic institutions in the country is the next to be dismantled to build on total power.”

High officials of the United States government have also expressed their concern over the Assembly’s actions. for example, Juan S. González, the special assistant to POTUS, tweeted a forceful message on his Twitter account: “That’s not how it’s done.”

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Vice president Kamala Harris also spoke out and her message was: “We have a deep concerns about El Salvador’s Democracy, in light of the National Assembly’s vote to remove constitutional court judges. An independent judiciary is critical to a healthy democracy – and to a strong economy.”

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On the same Saturday night, US officials warned that relations with El Salvador could deteriorate. “A strong US-El Salvador relationship will depend on the government of El Salvador respecting the separation of powers and submitting to democratic norms,” ​​Julie Chung, Acting Secretary of the State Department for the Western Hemisphere, said on Twitter.

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For its part, in an official statement released on their social networks, the Organization of American States (OAS) expressed that it also rejects the dismissal of the magistrates of the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice and that of the Attorney General, Raúl Melara, as well as the actions of the Executive Branch that guided these decisions.”

Faced with this situation, recognized Salvadoran civil society organizations have called on the population to mobilize in order to defend democracy. In response to this call, hundreds of people gathered this Sunday in the place known as “Monument to the Constitution” and massive mobilizations are expected to continue in the coming days.

A few hours later, members of the dismissed Constitutional Chamber issued a declaration of unconstitutionality of the legislative decree, thus annulling the decision that dismissed them, which of course is adding uncertainty to the growing tense political situation in the country.

However, three of the dismissed magistrates have submitted their resignation, as has the Prosecutor, which makes it more likely that this blow to the already weakened Salvadoran democracy will be consolidated and that the new Legislative Assembly will continue to maneuver in line with the interests of the President in order to concentrate his power, regardless of legality or legitimacy.


dd58f32f621bbe56a711c979ccd31498La juramentación de los nuevos magistrados [diario del hoy]

GOLPE A LA DEMOCRACIA EN EL SALVADOR

Con urgencia y sin mayor estudio la nueva Asamblea Legislativa, que tomó posesión el pasado 01 de mayo, decidió destituir a los magistrados del máximo tribunal Constitucional de El Salvador. Los mismos jueces que en el pasado emitieron resoluciones para regular los abusos de poder del Ejecutivo durante la pandemia y que no habían sido del agrado del presidente Nayib Bukele

La ley salvadoreña establece que la Asamblea Legislativa está facultada para destituir a los magistrados; no obstante, este tipo de decisiones debe seguir un proceso teniendo a la base causas específicas establecidas en la misma Constitución. El hecho que el presidente Bukele no esté de acuerdo con sus resoluciones no es una razón legal para destituirlos.

Luego de la destitución, la Asamblea nombró a nuevos magistrados, quienes posteriormente ingresaron al edificio de la Corte Suprema de Justicia para tomar posesión de sus cargos, acompañados de las más altas autoridades de la Policía. Seguidamente La Asamblea procedió de la misma forma para sustituir al Fiscal General de la República.

Por la forma atropellada, por las causas injustificadas y por la ilegalidad de estas decisiones, las reacciones no se hicieron esperar; organismos internacionales, abogados, organizaciones sociales, universidades y partidos de oposición denuncian un intento de Golpe de Estado por parte de la Asamblea Legislativa, planificado desde Casa Presidencial.

Al respecto, la defensora de derechos humanos y excandidata a la secretaría de la Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos (CIDH), la salvadoreña Celia Medrano, manifestó: “Para quienes aún tuvieran dudas de las consecuencias de dar más poder a los que ya lo tenían, o para quienes aún esperen acciones comedidas desde un poder Ejecutivo que ya había intentado coaccionar con fuerza militar a otro órgano del Estado; lo sucedido este primero de mayo deja en claro que el último pilar de la débil institucionalidad democrática en el país, es el siguiente en ser desmantelado para construir sobre el poder total”.

También altos funcionarios del gobierno de los Estados Unidos han manifestado su rechazo, por ejemplo, el asistente especial del presidente de los Estados Unidos, Juan S. González, publicó un mensaje contundente en su cuenta de Twitter: “así no se hace”. De igual forma la vicepresidenta, Kamala Harris se pronunció y su mensaje fue: “Tenemos una profunda preocupación por la democracia de El Salvador, a la luz del voto de la Asamblea Nacional para destituir a los jueces de la corte constitucional. Un poder judicial independiente es fundamental para una democracia sana y para una economía fuerte”.

La misma noche del sábado, funcionarios estadounidenses advirtieron que las relaciones con El Salvador pueden deteriorarse. “Una fuerte relación EEUU-El Salvador dependerá de que el gobierno de El Salvador respete la separación de poderes y se someta a las normas democráticas”, dijo en Twitter, Julie Chung, secretaria en funciones del departamento de Estado para el Hemisferio Occidental.

Por su parte la Organización de Estados Americanos expresó que rechaza la destitución de los magistrados de la Sala Constitucional de la Corte Suprema de Justicia y la del Fiscal General, Raúl Melara, así como las acciones del Poder Ejecutivo que guiaron esas acciones”, dice un comunicado oficial divulgado en sus redes sociales.

manifestacion-contra-golpe-en-asamblea01 [ElSalvador.com]

Ante esta coyuntura reconocidas organizaciones de la sociedad civil salvadoreña han hecho un llamado a la población a movilizarse para defender la democracia, atendiendo este llamado cientos de personas se concentraron este domingo en el lugar conocido como “Monumento a la Constitución” y se esperan movilizaciones masivas en los próximos días.

Además, la misma Sala Constitucional destituida, unas horas después, emitió una declaratoria de inconstitucionalidad del decreto legislativo, anulando de esta forma la decisión que los destituyó, lo cuál agrega incertidumbre a la tensa situación política del país.

Sin embargo, tres de los magistrados destituidos han presentado su renuncia, de igual forma lo ha hecho el Fiscal, lo cual hace más probable que se consolide este golpe a la ya debilitada democracia salvadoreña y que la nueva Asamblea Legislativa continúe maniobrando alineada al interés del presidente, para poder concentrar poder, sin importar la legalidad ni la legitimidad.

Economy, Environment

Is Selling Sugar to China Really Such a Sweet Deal for El Salvador?

Salvadoran government officials recently announced a deal to export 52,000 tons of sugar (12% of the country’s annual production) to China in a deal worth $15-20 million to local producers. El Salvador has sold sugar to South Korea, Taiwan, the U.S., Mexico, Canada, Indonesia, and the European Union, but this is the first time exporting to China.

Sugarcane burning in the Bajo Lempa
Sugarcane burning in the Bajo Lempa

With Partnership for Growth pressing El Salvador to produce more exports, sugarcane has become a larger part of the country’s economic plan. Already, sugarcane production has created 50,000 direct jobs and 200,000 more indirect jobs. This week Vice President Oscar Ortiz said “This is the key, this is the solution for our country: to diversify our production of exports. We are unable to be alone in a market, we have to be open to a variety of markets and in this direction we have to have the ability to improve our process of commercialization.”

Exporting $15-20 million of sugar to China and creating 250,000 jobs may sound like a sweet deal, but El Salvador is paying a substantial price. In addition to labor, agrochemicals, machinery, processing, and shipping, there are enormous costs related to the environment, public health, food sovereignty, and local culture. The individuals and corporations profiting from sugarcane exports don’t pay these costs. Instead they pass the debt on to the country’s poor who earn sub-poverty wages, suffer from chronic renal failure and other diseases, live in depleted ecosystems, struggle to feed their families, and are forced to migrate to urban areas.

DSCF0037Last year, Voices staff spoke with a team of migrant workers from Santa Ana cutting cane in a field in Usulután. They said they earn the agricultural minimum wage for cutting sugarcane 14-hours a day during the hottest months of the year. In 2014, the minimum wage for agricultural workers was $3.79/day. In 2015, it is up to $3.94/day. That is less than half of what is needed to feed a family. When these migrant workers arrive in a field of ripe sugarcane, they begin by burning the field to defoliate the cane, making it faster and cheaper to harvest, transport and process. The next day, as the field smolders, workers use machetes to cut the cane and pile it into rows. A tractor then loads the cane into tractor-trailers that deliver it to a processing plant. Yes, these and others workers have jobs, but they still live in abject poverty.

Another issue with sugarcane exports is way it is grown – large-scale monoculture production that relies on agrochemicals and is burned before harvest. Monoculture production of any crop destroys local ecosystems and displaces or kills the wildlife and people that once depended on them. When an ecosystem is destroyed, soil structures and natural defense systems deteriorate, requiring inputs such as fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, and many other toxic agrochemicals that contaminate local communities, rivers, streams, fields and forests. Many of these chemicals are linked to high rates of chronic renal failure, cancer, and other diseases common where sugarcane is produced.

Perhaps the most egregious practice with sugarcane production is burning the fields before harvest. Once alight, sugarcane burns quickly, flames and smoke snapping acre to acre, throwing thick black smoke, ash, and soot high into the air before snowing down on schools, soccer fields, homes, farms, and communities. The particulates include residues of all the agrochemicals that had been sprayed on the fields the months before. In addition to contaminating surrounding communities, burning sugarcane emits large quantities of greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change.

The use of toxic agrochemicals and burning of fields motivated residents of La Tirana, Monte Cristo, San Juan del Gozo and other communities to oppose large-scale sugarcane production next to mangrove forests on the San Juan del Gozo Peninsula. Residents fear that Glyphosate and other agrochemicals would have an adverse affect on their health and destroy the valuable and fragile ecosystem that they depend on.

In addition to the environmental impacts, large-scale sugarcane production also disrupts the local economy and culture. Rural communities in El Salvador have traditionally supported themselves by growing corn, beans, rice and other crops. Farmers generally keep a portion of what they grew to feed their family and sell the rest at local markets to generate a modest income. While small-scale farming will not generate the kind of concentrated wealth that large-scale monoculture can, it is a more sustainable way to live. And the campesino culture has always been one of humility, respect, and simplicity.

In 2013, the UN Commission on Trade and Development published a report titled “Wake Up Before It’s Too Late”. One of the report’s findings is “the world needs a paradigm shift in agricultural development: from a ‘green revolution’ to an ‘ecological intensification’ approach. This implies a rapid and significant shift from conventional, monoculture-based and high external-input-dependent industrial production towards mosaics of sustainable, regenerative production systems that also considerably improve the productivity of small-scale farmers.”

El Salvador’s focus on producing more sugarcane and other export crops does just the opposite. It is doubling down on monoculture production at the cost of small-scale farming. Monocultural production displaces families when they rent, sell, or otherwise lose their land sugarcane producers. There has been a long trend of farming families moving to urban areas where at best they work for minimum wage jobs. Idle youth lack access to education and are subject to the violence and gang culture that El Salvador has become famous for.

Selling $15-20 million in sugarcane may be good for a few Salvadorans, but the money does not pay for or trickle down to people who are bearing the environmental, health, economic, and cultural impacts. The demand for sugarcane is going to grow and the Salvadoran and U.S. governments will continue to promote it as a way to develop the stagnant economy. But Salvadorans should have to an informed debate about whether they are willing to pay the real costs of sugarcane.