Thousands of Salvadorans protest against corruption

People demonstrate against Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele and for an independent judiciary in San Salvador, on December 12, 2021. (Photo by MARVIN RECINOS / AFP)

Thousands of people protested Sunday in El Salvador’s capital against corruption and what they see as a drift towards authoritarianism, days after the United States announced sanctions against a close aide of President Nayib Bukele.

Bukele has drawn criticism for making bitcoin legal tender in the country, suggesting the volatile cryptocurrency will help revitalize its struggling economy, and for legal reforms which critics say are attacks on the independence of the country’s judiciary.

“As a country, we have had enough of the way public officials abuse state resources, which belong to the people,” lawyer Eduardo Alvarenga, 37, told AFP during the demonstration, as he carried a sign calling for an end to corruption..

Current and former judges took part in the protest, calling for respect for the separation of powers after Congress — which is dominated by the ruling party — dismissed all judges of the Supreme Court’s constitutional chamber and judges over the age of 60.

The new Bukele-aligned court then gave the green light for him to run for re-election in 2024 — despite a constitutional one-term limit.

“We are marching today as judges to defend the constitution and the rule of law,” said former judge Jorge Guzman, who resigned in solidarity with his sacked colleagues.

On Thursday, Washington imposed economic sanctions on Bukele’s chief of staff Carolina Recinos for alleged corruption — charges the Salvadoran leader called “absurd.”

After the rally, which unfolded without incident, Bukele lashed out at the US government.

“US taxpayers should know that their government is using their money to fund communist movements against a democratically elected (and with a 90% approval rating) government in El Salvador,” he tweeted.

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