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

A BLOW TO DEMOCRACY IN EL SALVADOR

LEER EN ESPAÑOL

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.”

Screen Shot 2021-05-03 at 9.55.34 AM

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.”

Screen Shot 2021-05-03 at 9.53.06 AM

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.

Screen Shot 2021-05-03 at 9.55.13 AM

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, El Salvador Government, Politics

Economic Well-Being Strongly Tied to Democratic Attitudes in El Salvador

The AmericasBarometer survey has recently published their biannual report, The Political Culture of Democracy in El Salvador.  Funded by USAID and other organizations, it focuses on a multitude of social and economic factors and their effect on citizen’s evaluation of democracy in El Salvador. Given the variety of important topics covered in this report, Voices will be publishing a series of articles on the results and their significance.

AmericasBarometer conducts surveys on the political culture of democracy in the Americas every two years, meaning that 2008 was the last year of data collection prior to the current. Since 2008, the economic recession has hit the Americas, and the rest of the world, hard. In Latin America especially, the rates of unemployment and the ‘extreme working poor’ (defined in the report as those who live on less than US$1.25 a day) rose significantly.  Unemployment rose to 8.5%.  Additionally, 9.9% of citizens are now considered members of the extreme working poor. Further, remittances from the U.S. to El Salvador (which account for 17% of El Salvador’s GDP) declined by approximately 12%. Thus, a special focus in this round of AmericasBarometer surveys emerged: the effect of hard economic times on citizens’ perception of democracy.

The economic recession seems to have gone hand-in-hand with a decline or even reversal of democratic development in many developing countries. El Salvador is no exception, reporting a 4-point decrease (68 to 64 on a 0-100 scale) in public support for democracy since 2008. This decline makes sense, especially in light of a 1996 study by Adam Przeworski, a democratic social theorist and political economist, analyzing the link between income and political stability.  Called the Przeworski Threshold, his finding was that no democracy has ever collapsed when the per capita income exceeded $6,055. Unfortunately, El Salvador has not reached that threshold, pointing to a connection between the country’s constant state of political unrest and its ongoing economic struggles. The reason behind this connection is two-fold: besides a lack of funds to support basic infrastructure, public discontent over the government’s money management and institutionalized economic inequality can incite violent political protests. In keeping with this analysis, survey data consistently indicated that democratic dissatisfaction increased as household income decreased, and household income has decreased the most for those who were already the poorest.

Interestingly, though there is a correlation between a survey respondent’s worsening personal financial situation and a lower level of support for democracy, respondents tended to be much more critical of the democratic system when it was the wider government that was in economic trouble. In a way, this is a positive indicator of citizens’ understanding of the democratic system: it signifies a recognition that the success of a country as a whole and the competence of its leaders have a more permanent positive effect than does individual prosperity. At the same time, however, these statistics highlight how important it is that the democratic government in El Salvador dedicate itself to improving the system in place, so as not to lose the support of its people in times of hardship.  It is during difficult times when public support is the most necessary.

Interviewers also asked participants to rate and compare their levels of ‘life satisfaction’ between 2008 and 2010 (note that 2008 life satisfaction levels are retrospectively reported, and results thus do not reflect real satisfaction in 2008). The results are still astounding: 40.8% of Salvadorans reported a decline in life satisfaction in these two years, most closely influenced by a negative perception of their personal economic situation, which has resulted in lower levels of confidence in democracy.

Other significant factors in a respondent’s appraisal of democracy are education, gender, and class. There is a positive correlation between higher levels of education and support for democracy: 61.7 % of Salvadorans with no or only primary education ‘at least somewhat’ support democracy, compared with 64.1% of middle/ high school graduates, and 68.4% of those with a post-secondary education. Historically, women in El Salvador have been less supportive of democracy, most likely due to their lower social status and rising violence towards women. The survey’s 2010 results confirm this. Only 61.7% of women professed support for democracy, compared with 66.7% of men. Lastly, as one descends through the quintiles of wealth, support for democracy likewise declines, confirming the correlation between economic well-being and approval of the democratic system.

We must ask, then, if a decrease in support for democracy necessarily a) implies a denial of the legitimacy of the political system or b) threatens political stability in a region. It seems to not do either. Despite a significant decrease in support for democracy as a political theory, survey results from El Salvador indicate a 7.1% overall increase in support for the functioning political system, most significantly tied to perceptions of the government’s economic success. The indicator for political system support is calculated based on responses to five different survey questions, which address the fairness of the judicial system, the respectability of the country’s political institutions, the protection of basic rights, citizens’ national pride, and, more abstractly, the perceived ideal level of support for the system. Many of the significant factors in determining support for democracy (such as economic well-being) remain significant when considering system support. In practice, though, they indicate opposite trends. Where the most highly educated were the biggest supporters of theoretical democracy, they show the lowest levels of support for the current political system as a whole. This is unsurprising, however, as this general trend appears in most developing and developed nations. Likewise, though women were more likely to be democratically disinclined, they reported higher levels of support for the actual political system than did their male counterparts. The general increase in system support seen here is also due to citizens’ perceptions of improvement in government economic performance, a hopeful indicator that the Americas may soon emerge from the recession.

The results of the AmericasBarometer survey are in keeping with those of the El Faro survey we covered previously, though the former is notably less partial. Where the El Faro survey tended to ask leading questions and thus overstate respondents’ dissatisfaction, AmericasBarometer kept questions as open as possible and seemed to do its best to remove bias and suggestion. That said, anti-democratic sentiment is still unmistakably present in El Salvador: on AmericasBarometer’s 0-100 scale, El Salvador scored third highest in public support for military coups (40.9 in 2010). Still in keeping with El Faro’s results, where the majority of respondents agreed that they would “support an authoritarian government if it resolved economic problems,” AmericasBarometer finds that support for a coup is highest among those who see the (national and personal) economic situation as grave. Again, significant determinants in support for a coup are education level, relative wealth, sex, and age: the more educated and/or wealthy the respondent, the less likely it was that he or she would support a military coup; and men and older members of society were less likely to be in support than women or youth.

The results of the survey show, for the most part, that economic well-being, whether that of individual families or that of the nation’s government, is one of the strongest factors that affect the public’s support of democracy.  In El Salvador, recently, personal economic well-being has been decreasing, and along with it, the support of democracy.  On the other hand, the public’s perception of the government’s well-being has brought an increase in support for the current system.  While public support for democracy as a political theory is important, support for the current, though imperfect, democratic system is more important to immediate political stability, and this does not seem to have been negatively impacted by the recent economic troubles.