U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressed “grave concern” with Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele Tuesday over his country’s Legislative Assembly voting to remove all five magistrates of the Supreme Court’s constitutional chamber, among other internal affairs.
Meanwhile, he ignored the migrant surge fueling the U.S. southern border crisis, overwhelming resources and personnel.
A readout of the conversation between Blinken and Bukele issued by the U.S. State Department noted:
Secretary Blinken expressed the U.S. government’s grave concern over the Legislative Assembly’s vote to remove all five magistrates of El Salvador’s constitutional chamber, noting that an independent judiciary is essential to democratic governance.
He expressed equal concern regarding the removal of Attorney General Raul Melara, who is fighting corruption and impunity and is an effective partner of efforts to combat crime in both the United States and El Salvador.
Without explicitly mentioning the surge of migrants from Central America’s Northern Triangle (El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala) region, the readout added;
Secretary Blinken noted the commitment of the United States to improving conditions in El Salvador, including by reinforcing democratic institutions and the separation of powers, defending a free press and vibrant civil society, and supporting the private sector, which relies on the rule of law to grow a successful future for the Salvadoran people.
Blinken leads the Biden administration’s diplomatic moves related to the growing crisis at the southern border and dealing with refugee and asylum applicants, among other things.
Vice President Kamala Harris, tapped by President Joe Biden to lead the U.S. response to the migrant surge that mainly originates from the Northern Triangle, leveled similar criticism against the Salvadoran Legislative Assembly’s move Tuesday, without providing any short term solutions to the migration surge along the United States-Mexican border.
The VP has yet to talk to Bukele or the leader of Honduras to discuss ways to combat the border crisis in the U.S.
To the dismay of Republicans, Harris says she will address the “root causes” of migration by providing U.S. taxpayer funds for improving economic conditions on the ground and combating corruption, an effort that analysts believe will take time.
“Just this weekend, we learned the Salvadoran parliament moved to undermine its nation’s highest court. An independent judiciary is critical to a healthy democracy and a healthy economy,” the VP said during a speech Tuesday.
“We will not make significant progress if corruption in the region persists. Corruption causes government institutions to collapse from within [and] prevents us from creating the conditions on the ground to best attract investment,” she added.
We will not make significant progress if corruption in the region persists. Corruption causes government institutions to collapse from within [and] prevents us from creating the conditions on the ground to best attract investment.
— Americas Society/Council of the Americas (@ASCOA) May 4, 2021
Nevertheless, Harris recently announced $350 million in additional humanitarian aid to the Northern Triangle after only talking to Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei.
We have deep concerns about El Salvador’s democracy, in light of the National Assembly’s vote to remove constitutional court judges. An independent judiciary is critical to a healthy democracy – and to a strong economy.
— Vice President Kamala Harris (@VP) May 3, 2021
The criticism from Blinken and Harris came as a President Biden-formed commission is looking at ways to potentially pack the U.S. Supreme Court with judges that support his agenda.
Quoting the readout of the phone call between Blinken and Bukele, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AK) tweeted, “Respect the separation of powers”?
He added, “How about President Biden terminates his commission to pack the Supreme Court?”
"Respect the separation of powers"?
How about President Biden terminates his commission to pack the Supreme Court? https://t.co/IwgUMz1BY3
— Tom Cotton (@TomCottonAR) May 3, 2021
The Biden Administration has shown no interest in combating the migration pull factors in the U.S. — cracking down on corporations that seek cheap labor for both white and blue-collar jobs, the failure to reinstate Trump-era deterrent policies or replace them with workable solutions, among other things.
Blinken and Harris have appeared to join the Democrat blitz to paint Bukele, the most popular president in Latin America who worked with former President Donald Trump to keep Salvadorans from leaving their country as an authoritarian.
The Salvadoran’s rhetoric about migration sounds similar to former President Donald Trump, likely drawing the ire of Democrats.
Bukele believes Latin American migration to the U.S. is bad for America, but even worse for its neighbors to the south because it robs the region of young people who can help bring financial stability.
The Salvadoran president claims the move to remove the magistrates is constitutional, while Blinken, Vice President Harris, and other critics suggest otherwise.
“Ruling party lawmakers defended the decision, saying the court had put private interests above the health and welfare of the people, while the opposition called it a power grab by a populist president seeking total control,” the Associated Press (AP) reported
“El Salvador’s constitution states that the magistrates of the Supreme Court of Justice may be removed by the Legislative Assembly for specific causes established by law. Both the election and dismissal of its magistrates must have the support of two-thirds of the lawmakers,” it added.
Lawmakers voted 64 to 19 with one abstention to oust the five magistrates.