El Salvador's constitutional crisis roils the nation

Critics say El Salvador's new Decree 743, which requires the Constitutional Court to make decisions by unanimous consensus, renders the court powerless.

Luis Galdamez/Reuters
El Salvador's President Mauricio Funes speaks at the Salvadoran Congress during the commemoration of his second year in power in San Salvador, June 1, 2011. He has come under fire for the passage of a new law that critics say renders the Constitutional Court powerless.

There is no resolution to the constitutional crisis in El Salvador over Decree 743, the law designed to make it more difficult for independent thinking judges to declare laws unconstitutional. For those who want an overview of this dispute, our friends at Voices from El Salvador have put on their blog a comprehensive timeline of the passage and subsequent protests surrounding Decree 743. There is also an overview on the story here at the Spanish language site of the BBC.

It is truly unique to see the different branches of El Salvador's government positioning themselves while the protests from civil society do not let up.

For example, President Mauricio Funes found it necessary to take out a full page ad in the newspapers to explain why he signed the law (he thinks it is constitutional and will promote institutional stability).

Mr. Funes also attacks the political party ARENA for switching positions on the law and now calling for its repeal after they allegedly received assurances that the Amnesty Law of 1993 would not be annulled.

Meanwhile, the judges of the Constitutional Court decided to issue a press release condemning the political parties and the president for suggesting that there could be any kind of negotiation of the content of rulings the court might make. The judges called on the other branches of government to respect the principle of judicial independence.

The protests are making the four independent magistrates of the Constitutional Court popular heroes.

The spirit of the protests are captured in this video, calling on a sleeping power of the people to wake up and reject the old political parties and the old ways of doing things.

--- Tim Muth covers the news and politics of El Salvador at his blog, Tim's El Salvador Blog.

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