Salvador: President Bukele’s re

SAN SALVADOR: The announcement by Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele of his candidacy for re-election in 2024 rekindles the debate on the constitutionality of such a decision, normally prohibited but made possible by a controversial ruling by Supreme Court judges appointed by the parliamentary majority in favor of the Head of State.

“I announce to the Salvadoran people that I have decided to present my candidacy for the presidency of the Republic” in the next elections in 2024, declared Mr. Bukele on Thursday evening during a radio-television speech for the celebration of the 201st anniversary of the country’s independence.

In September 2021, the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court had interpreted an article of the Constitution in a way allowing Mr. Bukele to run again. However, the constitutional ban on running for a second consecutive term has always been respected by his predecessors.

“Tailor-made interpretation”

“The judgment (of the Supreme Court) is not in accordance with the law. The constitutional text has been manipulated and misinterpreted and made to measure (for Mr. Bukele) because re-election is not allowed “by the Constitution, denounces Eduardo Escobar, director of the anti-corruption NGO Citizen Action.

In May 2021, the brand new parliamentary majority favorable to President Bukele dismissed the magistrates of the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court, as well as the Attorney General, before appointing new judges, which was described as an “undemocratic” measure by United States.

Nayib “Bukele wants to perpetuate himself in power (…) We are on the way to transforming El Salvador into another Nicaragua”, sighs Mr. Escobar. Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega also took advantage of timely constitutional reforms to obtain a fourth consecutive term last November.

Despite the overwhelming popularity he enjoys in the population thanks to his “war on crime”, the young Salvadoran president is also the target of accusations of authoritarianism on the part of his opponents and organizations for the defense of human rights.

“If we stick to the judgment of the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court, the path to re-election is open because that is the interpretation of the Chamber. There is nothing to do about it, let us like it or not,” said political analyst and lawyer Julio Valdivieso.

“The only way to prevent re-election” would be for the same jurisdiction to “issue a new judgment which would correct” its previous decision, slices political analyst Marvin Aguilar, for whom such a possibility is for the moment most improbable.

“It’s all about the interpretation of the Constitution. There has been a change in case law which is perhaps not the most correct (but) it is not illegal since it is what has been established by the most high constitutional legal body”, adds Mr. Aguilar.

“Stay in power at all costs”

The decision to stand for the presidential election shows “the obvious intention of (President) Bukele to remain in power at all costs”, judge Jaime Guevara, leader of the deputies of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN), the left-wing party of which Mr. Bukele was a member until his expulsion in 2017, accused of having insulted a leader.

For Salvadorans, President Bukele’s announcement is not really a surprise.

“It’s the best decision he could have made,” said Armando Rodríguez, a 54-year-old taxi driver.

“We criticize this president because he works, he distributes wealth to the people by giving a lot of aid,” laments the taxi driver.

Salvadoran and international human rights NGOs have criticized the Bukele government in particular for having imposed a state of exception since March in order to wage “war” on the criminal gangs that terrorize the country. More than 52,000 suspected members of these gangs, the dreaded “maras”, have since been arrested.

The deputy director for the Americas of the NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW), Tamara Taraciuk, recently denounced a “human rights disaster” under the emergency regime.

Salvador: President Bukele’s re-election candidacy revives the constitutional debate