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El Salvador: Decisions undermining independence of justice institutions should be revisited

Transparency International condemns actions to consolidate power by the executive government in El Salvador. We call on President Nayib Bukele and the Legislative Assembly to follow the due process for revisiting the decisions that amount to the breach of the constitutional and democratic order.

Over the weekend, in an unprecedented blow to the independence of key accountability institutions, El Salvador’s newly elected Legislative Assembly voted to remove and replace all five judges of the Supreme Court’s Constitutional Chamber. The decision has been slammed as unconstitutional by the judges. During the same sitting, lawmakers also voted to dismiss and replace the country’s Attorney General.

Transparency International’s national chapter Fundación Nacional para el Desarrollo (FUNDE), other civil society groups and business associations in El Salvador have strongly condemned the latest assault on democratic checks and balances.

“Corruption thrives when institutions, meant to hold the executive accountable, are undermined,” said Delia Ferreira Rubio, Chair of Transparency International. “The latest chain of events follows the alarming pattern of executive overreach observed since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, when social accountability mechanisms were curtailed in the name of the emergency. We call on the El Salvador government to respect the rule of law and the principle of separation of powers.”

In its statement, the Organization of American States (OAS) has also warned that the co-opting of the judiciary will “only lead to an unjust society, based on impunity and political persecution.”

Prior to ousting, the Attorney General was looking into cases of possible high-level corruption in COVID-19 procurement. If allowed to go unchecked, impunity for corruption will cast a long shadow over future of anti-corruption in El Salvador.

Notes to editors

  • El Salvador has stagnated on Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) for the past 8 years, earning a below-average score of 36 in 2020.
  • According to Transparency International’s 2019 Global Corruption Barometer for Latin America and The Caribbean, 45 per cent of Salvadorians thought corruption was on the rise in their country. Government officials were named as most corrupt by 47 per cent of the respondents. At the same time, 73 per cent of El Salvadorians said ordinary citizens can make a difference in the fight against corruption.

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