Bukele’s re-election bid fuels new concern in El Salvador

by | Sep 20, 2022 | World

A deeper descent into authoritarianism, or the extension of a presidency that most citizens believe has improved the country. Those were the two main reactions in El Salvador when President Nayib Bukele said last week that he plans to seek re-election in 2024.For human rights defenders, Bukele’s announcement raises the risk of slipping back towards a dark period in the country’s history when 75,000 people were killed during a 12-year civil war that ended in 1992.
The peace accord to end the violence established clear democratic norms to help the country avoid another bloody confrontation, such as limiting the military’s political power and requiring reforms to the judicial system.
But Bukele has slowly eroded these rules since coming to power in 2019, rights activist Celia Medrano told Al Jazeera, and violating the principle that bars re-election is just the latest example.
“El Salvador as a country will have to hit rock bottom, as happened to us 30 to 40 years ago [during the civil war], so that people begin to understand and react to what is happening,” said Medrano.
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For many, the president’s plan to seek re-election did not come as a surprise. Congress is controlled by Bukele’s Nuevas Ideas party. Legislators have removed the attorney general and constitutional court judges and replaced them with loyalists. And the constitutional court ruled last year that Bukele can run for re-election — although legal experts dispute this.
The Salvadoran constitution bans consecutive re-election, although it allows former presidents to run for office again after two presidential terms have passed.
“The constitutional court can’t issue rulings that openly go against the constitution,” said Leonor Arteaga, a Salvadoran lawyer and director of the Impunity and Grave Human Rights Violations programme at the Due Process of Law Foundati …

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