Fund the police or face insurrection, Salvadoran president threatens legislators

Salvadoran president Nayib Bukele threatened to invoke Article 87 which allows for a ‘right to insurrection’ if legislators did not accept his demand for a special session of the assembly to approve a loan of USD 109 million

February 10, 2020 by Peoples Dispatch
Dozens of armed police officers entered the parliament building under president’s order (Photo: David Martinez/EDH via Resumen)

On February 9, Salvadoran president Nayib Bukele has ordered the armed police to enter the nation’s parliament building in what opposition legislators deem to be “an attempt at intimidation.” The Central American nation is going through a constitutional crisis over a tense deadlock between the legislative assembly and the president over the latter’s demand for funds to further arm the police. The president has threatened to enact Article 87, which allows for a ‘right to insurrection’, over the legislature’s refusal to comply with his demand for a special session.

Bukele had called for a special session of the assembly and had given an eight-day deadline to approve his request for a loan of nearly USD 109 million to further arm the police, allegedly to deal with the rampant gang violence and the deterioration of law and order in the country.

Bukele had invoked Article 167, a constitutional provision that allows the president to call for an extraordinary session on a matter of national emergency. However, the invocation of the article was overwhelmingly rejected by the legislators, with some raising concerns at the lack of transparency in the disbursement of the funds, and others, including the speaker, deeming that the matter presented does not count as a national emergency.

In a vote held on February 7, called by the speaker Mario Ponce, the assembly decided 63-3 that the president’s call for a special session was not justified. Bukele promptly responded with an open threat to enact Article 87 if the assembly does not convene on Sunday. He also called for the public insurrection that led to thousands of his supporters barging into the parliament building, demanding that the loan be granted.

Legislators still refused to attend the call, with only 28 assembly members attending the session. The number was far below the required quorum of 43 to hold a legislative session in the 84-member assembly.

The president then sent armed police and military personnel into the legislative chambers. Assembly speaker Mario Ponce also called on all legislators to attend a session on Monday.

Meanwhile, Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN), the leading left-wing opposition in the country, has rejected the escalation of threats by the president and called on the people to defend “Salvadoran achievements” including its democracy. The FMLN along with many others have raised concerns regarding the attempts to dissolve the legislature with the invocation of Article 87, and have treated the deployment of the police as an indication towards the same.

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