A political storm has erupted in El Salvador as its parliament, newly controlled by President Nayib Bukele’s party, dismissed the attorney general and top judges deemed hostile to the populist leader.
Opposition parties denounced the move as a “coup,” while rights groups and international partners expressed grave concern even as Bukele celebrated the first step in “cleaning our house.”
“And the people of El Salvador, through their representatives, said: DISMISSED!” the young president crowed on Twitter after the majority vote Saturday, which came in the very first session of the newly constituted single-chamber Legislative Assembly.
The New Ideas party, which Bukele founded, gained an outright parliamentary majority in elections in February.
Until then, Bukele, elected in 2019 for a five-year term, had faced difficulty getting some programs approved in a parliament dominated by two opposition parties — the right-wing Arena and leftist FMLN.
His detractors have long accused Bukele of authoritarian tendencies, and observers had warned that an election victory for New Ideas could give him undue power.
The 39-year-old, who often sports jeans and a leather jacket in public with a baseball cap worn backwards, has clashed repeatedly with the Supreme Court and the public prosecutor’s office.
On Saturday, legislators voted to dismiss all five judges of the Constitutional Chamber, one of four organs of the Supreme Court, for allegedly issuing “arbitrary” judgments.
But some critics have pointed to authoritarian risks.
In February last year, in a bid to intimidate MPs into approving a loan to finance an anti-crime plan, the president ordered heavily armed police and soldiers to storm parliament.—APP