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 country's attorney general from office without any due process.   Attorney General Raul Melara had been investigating officials in the Bukele administration for corruption in connection with pandemic contracting, among other reasons.

4.  Appointed a new friendly attorney general.   Without prior notice or hearings, the Assembly elected Rodolfo Delgado as attorney general of El Salvador.  Delgado promptly disbanded the unit in the prosecutors' office which had been investigating corruption in the Bukele regime.

5. Made Bitcoin legal tender.  On June 8, 2021, only three hours after it received the text of a law from Nayib Bukele, the Legislative Assembly made Bitcoin legal tender in El Salvador.  A majority of the Salvadoran public has never approved of that law.  

6. Removed all judges older than 60.  The Legislative Assembly continued the work of creating a judiciary in its image.  The Assembly passed a law with mandatory retirement for all judges and prosecutors over 60, removing one third of all judges and many prosecutors.  This gave the NI-friendly Supreme Judicial Court the ability to remake much of the court system.   

7.  Passed the State of Exception, again and again.   On March 27, 2022, the Legislative Assembly suspended due process protections in the Salvadoran constitution and allowed arrest on mere suspicion and anonymous tips to place people indefinitely in overcrowded prisons awaiting trial.  This "exceptional" provision became the current state of affairs in El Salvador when the Assembly rubber-stamped extensions of the State of Exception every 30 days after that. 

8.   Changed laws for selection of the next Assembly.  Prior law in El Salvador prohibited changes to the election process less than a year before the next election.  The NI-controlled Legislative Assembly repealed that law.  Then eight months before the 2024 national elections, the Legislative Assembly changed the rules for election of deputies, by reducing the number of deputies from 84 to 60 and changing the method to allocate seats to political parties. The result was Nuevas Ideas won 90% of the seats in the new Legislative Assembly, which takes office on Wednesday, with only 71% of the vote.

9.  Reduced the number of municipalities and gerrymandered the boundaries.  The Legislative Assembly also reduced the number of municipalities from 268 to 44.  It also gerrymandered the combination of territories to create these new mega-municipalities to favor Nuevas Ideas.   As a result, Nuevas Ideas and its allies ended up in power in all but one of the 44 municipalities. 

10.  Passed first vote to give NI power to unilaterally amend constitution.  On Monday, in its final session, the NI-controlled Legislative Assembly passed a measure towards amending the Salvadoran constitution to allow a vote of 3/4 of deputies in a single assembly to adopt a constitutional amendment, doing away with the requirement that there be votes adopting the amendment by two successive assemblies. (Nuevas Ideas has 90% of deputies in the incoming Assembly which starts May 1). The impact of this change to the Constitution is that NI will be able to unilaterally make any amendment it desires to the Constitution during the next three years at a minimum.

Bottom line -- Nayib Bukele and his Nuevas Ideas party have consolidated all power in El Salvador to themselves and have eliminated any checks and balances to that power including eliminating the ability of the constitution to limit their actions.


David said…
FYI - NI won 26 of 44 municipalities. You should say NI & its allies won all but one municipality.