Showing posts from April, 2024

Three years of the Nuevas Ideas Assembly

  El Salvador is at the end of its first three years with  a Legislative Assembly controlled by Nayib Bukele and his Nuevas Ideas (NI) party.  These were three years which had a dramatic impact on Salvadoran democracy.  Here are some of the major steps of the NI-controlled Assembly: 1. Deposed the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Judicial Court .  On its first day in power, May 1, 2021, the NI-controlled Assembly removed all of the magistrates of the Constitutional Chamber, the country's highest judicial authority. It removed the magistrates all at once, without giving them notice or the opportunity to be heard.  2.  Appointed new friendly judges to the Constitutional Chamber.    On the same night it purged the Chamber, the Assembly elected a new slate of judges completely ignoring the process in the constitution for appointing new judges. 3.  Deposed the attorney general .   Still on the same night that the Assembly purged the Constitutional Chamber, it also removed the count

State of Exception --- Human Rights Investigations

The US State Department issued its 2023 Human Rights Report on El Salvador this week.  From the Executive Summary: Significant human rights issues included credible reports of: unlawful or arbitrary killings; enforced disappearance; torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment by security forces; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest or detention; serious problems with the independence of the judiciary; arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy.   There have been numerous investigative reports of the severe violations of international human rights standards occurring during El Salvador's State of Exception and the Bukele regime's "war on gangs."  The reports are prepared by a wide range of Salvadoran and international human rights groups.   These reports do not deny the reduction in homicides and gang control of territory during the past two years, but they point out the cost of the State of Exception.  Here are 13 of

State of Exception -- the (In)justice System

One common assertion by proponents of the current State of Exception in El Salvador is that the justice system will correct errors and only guilty persons will be locked up for any significant period of time. In fact, changes in the law, and a court system which does not act independently of the Bukele regime, mean the reality is quite different for the 70,000 persons arrested since March 2022. 1. Arbitrary arrests with little or no proof. The failures of the criminal justice system in El Salvador under the State of Exception begin with the arrests and detention of persons, usually in marginalized communities, without sufficient proof of any criminal activity. The State of Exception, which continues to be extended every month, permits an arrest to be made on mere suspicion, without police seeing a crime being permitted and without an order for arrest.  The online periodical El Faro documented hundreds of cases of arrests with flimsy evidence in an article titled  State of Exception

State of Exception -- in the communities

September 2023 parade in Tonacatepeque I do not often write in the first person in this space, but as I develop this series of posts at the start of the third year of the State of Exception, it feels important to describe how I have seen El Salvador change during that time. I have spent more than twenty years visiting and getting to know well a small community in the municipality of Tonacatepeque, northeast of San Salvador.  This collection of small houses, with water which arrives some of the days, with chickens and dogs and small children roaming the streets, is dear to me. And for most of the time I have known it, the community has been under control of the MS-13 gang. Two years into the State of Exception, the "muchachos" are no longer present, and the difference it makes in people's lives is real and observable. Residents now cross gang boundaries from one territory to another, no longer fearing deadly retribution as a consequence.  New little businesses have opened