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El Salvador’s façade of democracy crumbles as president purges his political opponents

El Salvador is in crisis after President Nayib Bukele on May 1 fired five Salvadoran supreme court justices and the attorney general .

The court and attorney general’s office were among the only checks on presidential power remaining since Bukele’s Nuevas Ideas party won a supermajority in Congress in March 2021, with more than 65% of votes. During the pandemic, the Salvadoran judiciary repeatedly ruled that the president’s uses of emergency powers were unconstitutional; Bukele defied the courts and ultimately dismissed the justices and the attorney general.

Salvadoran lawmakers supported Bukele’s purge of his perceived opponents. And recent polls show more than 90% of Salvadorans still support the president.

But the move drew sharp criticism from other countries .

“An independent judiciary is essential to democratic governance,” the U.S. State Department said of the justices’ dismissal .

Bukele came to power in 2019 on a tide of voters exhausted by the Salvadoran status quo – deep inequality, chronic violence and endemic corruption . Voters were hopeful for something different . Soon after, the authoritarian power grabs began.On Twitter, Bukele defended the recent firings as “getting our house in order” – the kind of sweeping change he was elected to enact.But Bukele’s anti-democratic behavior […]

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