The tiny Central American republic, El Salvador, has been rocked by an ongoing political crisis that has even sparked rumors of a possible coup d’état. The crisis has loomed since July of this year when the country’s supreme court ruled to annul the selection of 20 new judges by the national Legislative Assembly. The ruling prompted President Mauricio Funes and the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front, which controls Congress, to refuse to accept the ruling.
"At this time the United States is worried about the ... constitutional crisis in El Salvador," U.S. Ambassador Mari Carmen Aponte told a news conference while urging a swift end to the confrontation.
Various groups of demonstrators clashed in front of Congress on July 13. It was then that members of the FMLN fired tear gas canisters at protesters from organizations representing peasants and organized labor.
Until the clash at the Legislative Assembly, the U.S. had remained studiously non-committal as was Organization of American States. Roberta Jacobson, the Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemispheric Affairs, told the press on July 12, “It is a Salvadoran dispute to resolve; it is not ours to opine on how it gets resolved.” Aid from the U.S., assured Salvadoran Foreign Relations chief Hugo Martinez, is not in jeopardy.
El Salvador’s business sector, which during the country’s decades-long fratricidal civil war was associated with death squads and repression of basic human rights on the part of the nation’s security forces, has been critical of President Funes and his leftist party. Jorge Daboub, who leads a national business association, compared the dispute over the judicial appointment as a power grab by the ruling party that is modeled on countries such as Bolivia and Venezuela.
There are now reports that negotiations are underway to resolve the institutional crisis in El Salvador. They will be resumed on August 7, following the widely observed Catholic feast of Christ, Saviour of the World, which is also known as the Transfiguration, as well as secular holidays.
The Auxiliary Catholic bishop of the capital city, Monsignor Gregorio Rosa Chavez, expressed satisfaction that negotiations will re-boot after the holidays. While praising President Funes for opting for dialogue, Bishop Rosa Chávez was critical over what he called “external pressure” on the part of the U.S. to bring the various sides together in dialogue. “Unfortunately I think what everyone says is true, dialogue began because there was external pressure," said Bishop Rosa Chavez to journalists. "This shows - the Bishop confirmed - that our country is not independent, I think it is time to regain our dignity as a country."
According to the Fides news service, U.S. Ambassador Aponte had conveyed the threats by various U.S. legislators to remove El Salvador from among the recipients of funding for the so-called Partnership for Growth joint country action plan. In El Salvador, the Catholic Church was a bastion of resistance to the right-wing governments of the past just as it is now the principal critic of what its bishops see as American intrusion into the moral culture of the country. Catholic bishops have railed against homosexual marriage, for instance, even while the Obama administration has made wide-ranging freedoms for designated homosexuals a central plank of its foreign policy.