CACJ rules -- and the negotiations continue

The Central American Court of Justice (CACJ) issued its ruling on the constitutional crisis in El Salvador.   The CACJ ruled in a 5-1 decision, that the decisions of El Salvador's Constitutional Chamber, which invalidated the elections of magistrates in 2006 and 2012, were themselves invalid.    The CACJ decision spends most of its time asserting the basis for its claim of jurisdiction over this internal Salvadoran constitutional conflict.   Once the CACJ decided it had the power to rule on the conflict, its analysis of the actual dispute is trivial.   The CACJ decision boiled down to saying that since no one from the Constitutional Chamber showed up to dispute the petition of the National Assembly, the legislature wins.

The Constitutional Chamber promptly issued a decision that the CACJ ruling had no legal effect.   According to the Constitutional Chamber, only the Chamber itself can decide the meaning of El Salvador's constitution.   That authority could not be transferred by treaty to a regional organization like the CACJ.  

Despite the declaration of victory by Sigfrido Reyes, the FMLN president of the National Assembly, the ruling of the CACJ did not seem to have any impact on the positions of the political parties in the negotiations being mediated by president Mauricio Funes.

The primary dispute remaining appears to be the presidency of the Supreme Court.   The FMLN-GANA-CN-PES bloc in the National Assembly wants lawyer Ovidio Bonilla to be the president.   Bonilla was elected to that position in the April 2012 vote which was subsequently ruled invalid by the Constitutional Chamber.    If Bonilla can be re-elected, the FMLN bloc has now indicated they will agree to leave the Constitutional Chamber intact, including the four judges who issued the rulings which precipitated this constitutional crisis, and they will drop the investigation of the 2009 class of judges.   ARENA, however, declares Bonilla to be unacceptable as the president of the Supreme Court.   They believe he is too much an FMLN partisan to be an independent judge.   Negotiations continue this morning at the Presidential House.

Meanwhile, there has been a series of back-and-forth accusations between former Supreme Court president Belarmino Jaime and his interim successor Florentín Meléndez on the one hand and Mauricio Funes on the other hand.    Jaime and Meléndez claim that they are being persecuted by state agents and that the State Intelligence Organization is intercepting their telephone conversations.    Funes emphatically denies the charges and accused Meléndez of making intemperate and reckless remarks inappropriate for a judge of the Supreme Court.   Jaime also made an appearance at the office of the attorney general to accuse Ovidio Bonilla of crimes involving perjury and breaking into the offices of the Supreme Court.   Bonilla, of course, takes the position that he is the validly elected president of the Supreme Court.


Carlos X. said…
Pres. Funes told the parties that today's session would be the last meeting to try to resolve the crisis, a move that Salvadoran newspapers see as tantamount to an "ultimatum" by the president to try to get the two month-old crisis wrapped up. Perhaps the urgency comes from comments made by U.S. Ambassador Aponte, who told the press earlier in the week that she saw little progress in the now seventeen meetings convened by Pres. Funes. The ultraconservative El Diario de Hoy reports today that Andrew J. Mayock, Deputy Vice President for Compact Operations of the Millennium Challenge Corporation, advised El Salvador in an Aug. 15 letter that the next phase of the Millennium Fund disbursement would not be ratified until the constitutional crisis was overcome. The current stalemate appears to be driven by political gamesmanship by both sides. On the one hand, ARENA, seeing a political opportunity, has taken the position that Ovidio Bonilla disqualified himself due to unjudicious conduct as you describe, and they see an opening to name someone who won't be so close to the FMLN. For their part, the FMLN-led coalition see their position bolstered by the Central American Court's ruling, and threaten to simply rest on its holding that they are free to disregard the Salvadoran Supreme Court's nettlesome rulings. So, we await for some deus ex machina to break the logjam.