February 9, the inside story

In the tidal wave of news related to the novel coronavirus and its impact on El Salvador and the rest of the world, an important story managed to pass largely unnoticed.  On March 11, journalists Efren Lemus, Óscar Martínez and Carlos Martínez published in El Faro La historia detrás del día en que Bukele se tomó la Asamblea Legislativa -- The story behind the day Bukele took over the Legislative Assembly.

My translation of El Faro's introduction to the piece:
The entrance of President Bukele into the Legislative Assembly was not due to any public security loan. It had its origin in the water and algae crisis, in the image problem that this crisis generated for the Government. El Faro reconstructs what happened around the seizure of the congress: three days before, [the office of the president] ordered by chat message the Cabinet to cancel trips and attend the February 9th demonstration; the [personal bodyguards] of the deputies were summoned on Friday with a political message from their boss, who reminded them that the Police pay their salary; the soldiers who entered the Salon Azul belonged to an elite corps, expressly deployed for the operation; audios of a private meeting show that several diplomats reproached the government for what happened and that high officials recognized that February 9 was a mistake.
Read the whole article [in Spanish] here

There is too much in the article to summarize in this blog post.  After seeing the Legislative Assembly scoring points against the inept handling of the potable water crisis in the greater San Salvador handling by his health minister and the head of the water ministry, Bukele decided to strike back with his demand that the Assembly approve the loan, and do it in a session he would summon.  Among the disclosures in the article, there was a meeting the morning of February 9 which included US Ambassador Ron Johnson and European diplomats where they urged Bukele to back off.   The advice was obviously ignored.   The article includes a recording of a meeting between Bukele administration officials and the diplomatic corps on  February 11 where the diplomats made explicit the magnitude of Bukele's error. 

Bukele has taken control of the coronavirus response in El Salvador, including driving through the Legislative Assembly an emergency declaration and suspension of certain constitutional protections. Bukele has received generally good marks for his leadership on this response, but he has also received the side benefit that February 9 has dropped from public discussion and has even been forced from the front pages of El Faro.