The recent economic stimulus package approved in the United States includes a clause that punishes the governments of the Northern Triangle for their corruption and little commitment to democracy.
In just over a year and a half, the presidency of Nayib Bukele has shown clear signs of a systematic attack on the institutionality and the rule of law in El Salvador: it has disrespected judicial rulings, has harassed opponents, has closed doors to transparency. Worse still, it has used the security forces as the armed arms of its political whims.
This has not gone unnoticed in the United States, El Salvador’s main ally. On the eve of a change in government, and amid Bukele’s efforts to pay lobbyists to clean up his image in Washington, his North American ally will cut the assistance it gives to the Salvadoran Armed Forces.
Throughout his incipient presidency, Bukele has shown signs of attacks on institutions that have not gone unnoticed in Washington DC.
This cut is part of the extensive budget and stimulus package to combat the coronavirus that both houses of the US Congress recently approved and that President Trump ratified last Sunday, December 27.
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Among the annexes to the main project, there was a clause aimed at combating corruption in Central America, which includes this cut in funds from the State Department for the acquisition of US defense equipment for El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.
Bukele played down a legislator who promoted the cut
Throughout his incipient presidency, Bukele has shown signs of attacks on institutions that have not gone unnoticed in Washington DC. Although the Trump administration was silent in the face of some clear abuses of power, considering Bukele an ally in its immigration policies, both sides of the legislature spoke out on numerous occasions against the blows to the rule of law of the Salvadoran president.
One of the legislators who signed these pronouncements demanding respect for the institutionality was Norma Torres, who is a member of the House of Representatives for the state of California. At the time, Bukele downplayed Torres and other legislators who spoke out against his abuses, said they were not representative and even hinted that they had only signed by signing, without knowing what the letters contained.
The same legislator whom he downplayed was the one who promoted the partial cut in funds for the armed forces that was endorsed by the Senate and sanctioned by Trump.
Read also: Three keys to understanding Joe Biden’s plan for Central America
This legislative project also contemplates other types of sanctions for government officials who have damaged democracy in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. The Joe Biden government, which will take office on January 20, will have just under 6 months to deliver a list of individuals it considers corrupt in the Northern Triangle and the country will proceed to cancel the visas and establish sanctions, as approved by both legislative chambers.
This, combined with the Biden plan for Central America, which poses harsh consequences for the corrupt, is a setback for the Northern Triangle countries that got used to the transactional style of the Trump administration: they faithfully collaborated with immigration policies in exchange for receiving the accolade. Washington and a dismissive look at the obvious abuses of power.
Related note: Republican congressmen see Bukele backsliding from democracy
The former ambassador of the United States El Salvador, Mari Carmen Aponte, told El Diario de Hoy a few months ago that President Bukele would do well to expect a different treatment from the Biden government, from which he anticipated that he would have a stronger stance against abuses of power .
Bad news for Bukele, good for El Salvador
José Miguel Vivanco, director for the Americas of Human Rights Watch (HRW), spoke in this regard, reacting to the news on Twitter saying that this is “good news for El Salvador. Bad news for Bukele. “
Vivanco, who has been a regular critic of the president’s abuses and was even blocked on Twitter by the president, said that “his repeated abuses have an international cost. And with the end of Trump that cost will only increase. “
US cuts military aid to El Salvador
Good news for El Salvador.
Bad news for Bukele.
Its repeated abuses have an international cost.
And with the end of Trump that cost will only increase.
– José Miguel Vivanco (@JMVivancoHRW) December 29, 2020
The HRW official fitted his tweet with an image of February 9, the most iconic event of Bukele’s abandonment of the rule of law, when he led a military and police takeover of the Legislative Assembly to press for a loan. This event was perhaps the watershed in the international image of the Salvadoran president and the end of the “honeymoon” that many international observers had with Bukele.
This cut does not cover the bulk of cooperation to combat drug trafficking and other tasks, but it is a message for the countries of the Northern Triangle.
“This puts these countries on the same level as dictatorships and failed states,” said Adam Isacson, a member of the Washington Office for Latin America (WOLA), a think tank for the promotion of the rule of law in the region.
Napoleón Campos, an expert in international affairs and candidate for deputy for Nuestro Tiempo, affirmed that “Nayib Bukele did it again! He lost Fomilenio III for El Salvador and now US military assistance (President) Trump signs the law that qualifies Bukele as corrupt and imputes serious damage to Democracy and the rule of law. “
For her part, Bukele’s designated ambassador in Washington, Milena Mayorga, showed surprise at this cut and in an interview with The Associated Press (AP) called for a reconsideration of the decision, in addition to highlighting Bukele’s supposed democratic commitment.