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Politics in El Salvador: divide and conquer

The launch of an International Commission against Impunity in El Salvador (CICIES) is today’s dividing element in this Central American nation, renowned for its polarisation.


Charly Morales Valido


Even though many saw a triumph over the extremes in the electoral victory of President Nayib Bukele, the truth is that Salvadorans are still unable to reach an agreement on urgent matters, such as in the battle against corruption.

Bukele promised, as part of his campaign, to implement a mechanism similar to that which, just this 3rd September, shut down in Guatemala after 12 controversial years of praise and criticism, but with institutional strengthening.

“But El Salvador is not Guatemala, here the institutions do work, and CICIES could lend itself to the political persecution of the opposition”, Fidel Fuentes, mayor of San Marcos, warned in a recent conversation with Prensa Latina.

The mayoral coordinator of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front party (FMLN) also warned about the lack of information on the process that the Vice-President of the Republic, Felix Ulloa, is negotiating.

“We don’t know his legal basis, his competence and who he answers to”, said Fuentes, who believes it would be better to strengthen existing entities, such as the Attorney General’s Office, or the Court of Audit.

The first 100 days have now been completed by Bukele’s government, who promised that CICIES would be running before this date.

Although nobody opposes fighting corruption and impunity, diverse voices in both the legislative and judicial fields are questioning the implementation of CICIES without previous consultation; and its reliance on the government.

The President of the Supreme Court of Justice (SCJ), Oscar Pineda, warned that all the effort to fight corruption “must be supported within the framework established by the Constitution”. In fact, there is a possibility that someone might object to the legality of CICIES before the Constitutional Division of the Supreme Court, as the lack of knowledge continues about the way everything works and the contents of that entity.

For Rodolfo Gonzalez, the former constitutional magistrate, launching CICIES should be signed off by the government, ratified by the Legislative Assembly and reviewed by the judiciary.

In the single-chamber Parliament, the right-wing parties Nationalist Republican Alliance, Christian Democratic party and National Concertation believe that CICIES will require ratification by the legislative body, and the FMLN is seeking more information.

Only the ruling party, Grand Alliance for National Unity (GANA), considers it unnecessary for the legislative assembly to pass the aforementioned agreement, which will be advised by the Organisation of American States.

The seventh point of Article 131 of the Constitution establishes that one of the Assembly’s powers is ratifying, or denying, the treaties or pacts that the government holds with other states or international organisations.

Such ratification requires a qualified majority: that means 56 out of 84 votes from the members of parliament, but GANA, the party that Bukele allied himself to in order to win the presidency, barely has 11 seats.

“My perception is that Bukele is playing with an audacious strategy. He proposes something that he knows will be questioned by other parties, so that he can accuse them of being accomplices in what, in inverted commas, he says to investigate”, Fuentes warned.

Such criterion makes sense, meanwhile the Bukele administration has already signed up to the legislative and municipal elections in 2021, which they hope to win, supported by discourse against those it defines as “the usual ones”. (PL)

(Translated by Donna Davison – Email: Pixabay

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