In yet another widely criticized measure, the president of El Salvador, Nayib Bukele, articulated the approval of a law that imposes the mandatory retirement of judges over 60 years of age or who have already served 30 years of service. The theme was voted on Tuesday (31) in the Legislative Assembly.
Thus, at least a third of the country’s 690 judges will immediately be placed on compulsory retirement, according to information compiled by the newspaper El Faro. On social media, Bukele credited the new law with the possibility of “cleaning up the judicial system”. “This will remove corrupt judges,” he wrote.
Magistrates promptly criticized the imposition, which they characterize as unconstitutional. José Alberto Franco, a Salvadoran judge, said in a statement that it is not up to congressmen to interfere in the judicial career and that the measure “violates the independence of justice”.
The local newspaper Diario El Mundo Marjorie de Trigueros, director of legal studies at the Salvadoran Foundation for Economic and Social Development, said that the reform “is an instrument to politically control judges and magistrates and annul their independence.”
The approved law is another step forward in the president’s offensive against the judiciary. On May 1, the Assembly approved the removal of five Supreme Court justices — all the removed magistrates had made decisions that displeased Bukele. The attorney general was also removed from office.
The sewing of laws that favored the right-wing president was already expected. In March, his party, Nuevas Ideas, won a majority in El Salvador’s unicameral legislature. Newly created to house those aligned with the populist policy of the president, the acronym won 56 seats out of a total of 84.
Former mayor of San Salvador, Bukele was elected in 2019, in the first round, breaking with the traditional right-left bipartisanship in El Salvador. It did not take long for his administration to be characterized as authoritarian. A year after taking office, he occupied Congress, with the support of the military and police, to pressure lawmakers to approve a multimillion-dollar loan to fight crime.
In the Covid-19 pandemic, anti-democratic flirtations were replicated: Bukele ordered the arrest of those accused of violating isolation or suspected of having contracted the disease abroad. In April 2020 alone, 4,236 people were detained in so-called detention centers for these reasons, according to a report by the NGO Human Rights Watch.
The president also faces criticism related to the project to legally recognize the use of bitcoin cryptocurrency — if that were to materialize, the Central American nation would be the first in the world to formally adopt the digital currency.
Also on Wednesday, Salvadoran police arrested, without a warrant for his arrest, a digital expert critical of Bukele’s plan. Mario Gomez was released hours later, and officials claimed the computer scientist was being investigated for financial fraud. Gomez’s lawyer, Otto Flores, characterized the detention as arbitrary.
The expert had been participating in several virtual forums, in which he argued against the proposal to legalize bitcoin. Critics say its use is risky, given the volatility of cryptocurrency, and that it can be a means of money laundering.
A survey by the Central American University released on Thursday (2) showed that 67.9% of Salvadorans oppose the recognition of bitcoins as currency. 1,281 people were interviewed.