A file photo of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken Photograph:( AFP )
US Secretary of State Antony J Blinken spoke to Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele on Sunday about the previous day's vote, saying that an independent judiciary is essential to democratic governance, the State Department said
The vote by El Salvador's new congress to remove the magistrates of the Supreme Court's constitutional chamber and the attorney general on the newly elected legislative body's very first day drew concern and condemnation from multinational groups and the United States.
US Secretary of State Antony J Blinken spoke to Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele on Sunday about the previous day's vote, saying that an independent judiciary is essential to democratic governance, the State Department said.
Bukele's New Ideas party won 56 out of the 84 seats in the Legislative Assembly in February elections that pushed aside the country's traditional parties, already weakened by corruption scandals.
The dominant electoral performance raised concerns that Bukele would seek to change the court, which along with the previous congress, had been the only obstacles that the very popular leader faced. The vote on Saturday to remove the five magistrates was 64 lawmakers in favour, 19 opposed and one abstention.
Now, with effective control of the congress and the high court, few if any checks remain on Bukele's power.
He swept into office in 2019 as a break from the country's corrupt and troubled traditional parties, though his political career had started in the leftist Farabundo Mart National Liberation Front.
And even before the assembly was in his sway, Bukele sought to bully and intimidate El Salvador's other democratic institutions. In February 2020, he sent heavily armed soldiers to surround the congress when it delayed voting on a security loan he had sought.
Bukele clashed repeatedly with the constitutional chamber of the Supreme Court during the pandemic. When it ruled his obligatory stay-at-home order unconstitutional in last June, Bukele said, “The court has just ordered us to murder dozens of thousands of Salvadorans within five days."
Blinken also expressed concern about the removal of Attorney General Raul Melara, saying he was fighting corruption and has been an effective partner of efforts to combat crime in both the United States and El Salvador, State Department spokesman Ned Price said.
Melara had been selected by the previous congress and was an outspoken Bukele critic.
Blinken said the US is committed to supporting democratic institutions in El Salvador.
(With inputs from agencies)