Last year, Guatemala experienced a constitutional crisis when former President Jimmy Morales ignored orders from the highest court in the land, ended the mandate of the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (who had accused him of corruption), and surrounded their offices with tanks to force commissioners to leave the country. Now a constitutional crisis has erupted in El Salvador. Here’s what happened.
President Nayib Bukele called for an extraordinary session of the Legislative Assembly on Sunday, February 9, at 3:00 p.m. in order to get approval for a $109 million international loan he wanted for modernizing military and police forces. He insinuated on social media to his followers that if deputies did not show up, they would be violating constitutional order and that the people had the right of insurrection in this case, although the Legislative Assembly is an independent branch of government that is authorized to make decisions about its own affairs. Not wanting to be dictated to, deputies scheduled a regular session for Monday, February 10, to take up the matter.
The president then called for his supporters to gather at the Legislative Assembly and deployed military and police forces throughout the city. A small number of deputies showed up for the extraordinary session, and then the President brought armed soldiers into the legislative chamber to surround the room, railing against the deputies who had not shown up and against all of them for not yet passing his request to approve the loan. Finally, he prayed silently, left the chamber, and spoke to his followers outside that God had told him to be patient. In a real violation of Constitutional order, he commanded the deputies to pass his request within the week, or he would call out his supporters again, with the implied threat that they would remove the deputies from offfice by force.
The militarization of El Salvador’s political spaces had been, until now, a thing of the past, since before Peace Accords were signed in 1992 ending the civil war. Now, political leaders on the left and the right are concerned that President Bukele is about to perform a self-coup, using the armed forces and his supporters to take control of the Legislature. CRLN urges its members to read the joint statement, sent to us by U.S .- El Salvador Sister Cities, signed by some of El Salvador’s social movements and to learn more from the articles below. Then, please take action, following the Action Alert from our friends at CISPES (copied below the articles).
Call your Representative and/or Senator and ask them to speak out. Call the Congressional switchboard at (202) 224-3121 to be connected to their office. Ask to speak with the person in charge of foreign affairs.Sample script: My name is ______ and I am a resident of _________. I am calling because I am extremely concerned about threats to democracy in El Salvador. Have you been following the crisis there over the weekend? The president commanded the legislature to hold an extraordinary session in order to approve a loan he wanted for security funding, which he does not have the authority to do, in this case, and threatened consequences if they didn’t show up. Then he deployed the Armed Forces to occupy the legislature in a clear violation of the Peace Accords. It is urgent that Members of Congress speak out against this rollback of democracy in El Salvador. Will you make a statement calling on the President Bukele to respect the autonomy of the elected legislature? Will you call on the U.S. Embassy to do the same?
[They will probably want more details. If so, ask for their email address and offer to connect them with Alexis Stoumbelis, Executive Director of CISPES, who is coordinating the national effort and can provide additional information: email@example.com. Please let Sharon Hunter-Smith in the CRLN office know if you reach your Illinois Representative. She will work with you to get Illinois Representatives to speak out and will stay in contact with Alexis.]]
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