In El Salvador, Congress, controlled by an overwhelming majority of the ruling party, decided on May 1 to dismiss the Supreme Court and the Attorney General. President Nayib Bukele, from his official Twitter account – he doesn’t need official communications, press conferences or balcony speeches, a tweet is enough for the Salvadoran president who rules through social media – signed the decision: “And the Salvadoran people, through their representatives, have said: ‘without resources’”. And that was it … Yet the president and parliament, following his dictates, erased the division of powers with a stroke of a pen and appointed a new attorney general and supreme judges, who immediately took office accompanied by the police. Goodbye the rule of law, paved the way for “Caesarean democracy” or “elective autocracy”, depending on how you want to see it.
It is the same conception shared by the leaders, the politicians, the former governors or the current high officials of the countries of Latin America. In Argentina, they are the “anti-Lawfare crusaders”, led by Vice-President Cristina Kirchner. Former Vice-President Amado Boudou, in a virtual classroom with students from the University of Buenos Aires on May 3, explained it this way: they argue that we live in “democracies conditioned” by “factual powers” that do not respond to will. Thus, those who govern in the name of the people or represent “popular movements” do not really have the power: the power is held by others.
“What are we talking about when we talk about lawfare?” Asks Boudou. “It is a device of social control, we are talking about democracy conditioned and altered by institutional and institutionalized mechanisms,” he said. He says these are “things happening from Mexico to Tierra del Fuego” and points out that it is not “an invention of a political space”. According to the former employee, it is “a disciplinary device. It is persecution, the horrible public spectacle of punishment ”. He also says that the courts “have become parodies” and that the aim of the law is politicians, trade unionists and leaders who “intend to transform reality”.
This defense is presented as a rhetorical alibi intended to conceal what is nothing other than a political battle for the control of all the levers of the State. In some cases, avoid investigating and punishing those who have committed or have committed acts or acts of corruption on the part of political power. In other cases, to get rid of the locks, checks and balances that limit the actions of leaders and government officials who feel they need, or deserve, exceptional powers to exercise power.
Argentina is not El Salvador, because Bukele is the president there and in Buenos Aires, the former vice-president who shares his point of view, is serving his sentence, found guilty of corruption during his tenure in the public service.
Meanwhile, a decision by Argentina’s Supreme Court of Justice, which limited the exceptional powers of the national government to deal with the health crisis resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic, sparked a new wave of official fury against the more high court, with the same arguments used by the young Salvadoran president. The judges were not voted on by the people; they act as a “counter-majority power”, they argue, as if this were not their constitutional function in a rule of law. This suggests that if the Frente de Todos, the coalition that governs Argentina, won 70% of the votes that allowed Bukele to have his own parliament in the next election, judging by what has been said, nothing will happen. ‘would prevent trying to follow the Salvadoran path, remove the members of the Court and appoint the judges who accompany the government. We are a family business.
Nothing, really, that we haven’t seen in the past. “What is happening in El Salvador, written on social networks, shows that if the demolition of liberal democracy is accompanied by popular majorities, it is unstoppable.” But who speaks for what “popular majorities” and what happens when the people lose this liberal democracy at the hands of warlords, dictators or uncontrolled rulers?
The question is as old as our own New World Republics, “the Latin American political experience of the nineteenth century”, the title of a magnificent work by Hilda Sábato (Taureau, 2021), which reconstructs the genesis of conflicts and crossroads that have marked our history and continue to support us. Behind the recurring power conflicts between the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary hides, and it would be the case, a conflict between two opposing conceptions on the very nature of power in a democracy. And it is verifiable that it is not the institutional dismantling of republics, but their strengthening, which is the way to consolidate our democracies, which cannot fail to be based on the sharing of powers and the rule of law. When leaders and rulers come up with other “shortcuts” on behalf of the people, especially when they do so while concealing their own responsibilities and mistakes, we can only suspect and warn where they are leading us.
LINK PRESENT: Did you like this column? The subscriber can release five free accesses from any link per day. Just click on the blue F below.