SANSALVADOR (Reuters) – Lawmakers aligned with Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele sought on Saturday to swiftly remove all of the judges on the country’s top court, in a bid the opposition and some international organizations described as a dangerous power grab.
The unprecedented move came on the first day that lawmakers from Bukele’s New Ideas party took firm control of Congress after midterm elections in February gave the party a more than two-thirds supermajority in the unicameral legislature.
The five judges who sit on the Supreme Court’s constitutional panel are among the few remaining checks on Bukele’s power. They are the five most powerful jurists on the 15-member court.
Elisa Rosales, a New Ideas lawmaker and the third-ranking leader of Congress, said the move was needed to stem the tide of the coronavirus pandemic in the Central American country.
She argued there is “clear evidence” that the five judges are impeding the government’s health strategy, and that lawmakers must remove them to protect the public.
But Rosales’ argument was derided as a pretext by critics of the move.
“Bukele is breaking the rule of law and seeking to concentrate all the power in his hands,” Jose Miguel Vivanco, head of Human Rights Watch, wrote in a post on Twitter.
(Reporting by Nelson Renteria; Writing by David Alire Garcia; editing by Jonathan Oatis)