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El Salvador, a small country in Central America, is facing a Constitutional Crisis caused by a power struggle between the National Assembly and the Constitutional Court.
The crisis started this year when FMLN (the left party that won the presidential elections in 2009) in an alliance with minority parties attempted to rush through the appointment of judges to the Supreme Court before the new National Assembly (in which FMLN had lost legislative majority) took office in May.
This in not the first time this has happened in El Salvador. In 2006 when the right wing party ARENA had legislative majority, they did the same thing, electing judges twice in the same legislative period.
The Constitutional Court in June ruled that the 2006 and 2012 elections were unconstitutional and ordered new elections for 15 judges and their alternates. The Constitutional Court clearly stated that it is unconstitutional for an outgoing legislature to name justices to serve under the next session.
Despite this, the National Assembly was not willing to accept this verdict; they appealed to the Regional Central American Court of Justice, even though it has no authority to decide on El Salvador’s constitutional questions, which ruled in favor of the National Assembly.
This led to several protests from the different organizations of the civil society that organized themselves in a movement called #Yomevistodeblanco (I dress myself in white) to express their indignation for the National Assembly’s actions against the Supreme Court.
Even with all the pressure, FMLN and the allied parties are not willing to repeal the judge’s election and stated that the Regional Central American Court of Justice has authority to decide over El Salvador’s constitutional matters.
This Monday a syndicalist group took over the Supreme Court building to guarantee that, although their election has been declared illegal by the Constitutional Court, the judges elected by the General Assembly were able to take office. The new judges elected by the General Assembly even had to use a locksmith to open the President of the Supreme Court office and some other areas of the building. The police officers that were near the area did not do anything to try to stop these actions.
The newly elected by the General Assembly, but declared unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court, president of the Supreme Court, Ovidio Bonilla, was presented to a group of people by the president of the National Assembly Sigfrido Reyes (FMLN) and other members of the National Assembly from political party allies of FMLN.
ARENA is the only political party that is against the National Assembly election of the judges and supports the Constitutional Court rulings that declared the 2006 and 2012 elections unconstitutional, even though in the 2006 election they were the ones who had legislative majority. They recently announced they don’t recognize Ovidio Bonilla as the president of the Supreme Court, based on the Constitutional Court’s Ruling.
The US Senate is also concerned with El Salvador’s situation. The Republican Florida Senator Marco Rubio said that the United States does not have the obligation to continue collaborating with a country that is violating its own Constitution and its own laws, which were achieved by the Salvadorian people with great sacrifice. The Senator warned that they have to check their help programs, like the Millennium Challenge Account from which El Salvador has received more than $400 million, because they are only intended for countries that are achieving progress in their democracies.
The situation is critical, with two separate groups of judges claiming to be the country’s lawful Supreme Court, but only one is the legitimate one; the Salvadorian crisis is similar to the one suffered in Nicaragua when the Sandinistas took over the Supreme Court.
Image Courtesy of MINEX GUATEMALA