Saturday, June 13, 2015

Constitutional Chamber strikes again, stops Salvadoran government borrowing

The Constitutional Chamber of El Salvador's Supreme Court has again issued a ruling which has again angered the other branches of the government.    The Chamber has issued an order preventing the government from issuing bonds to borrow $900 million needed for the functioning of the government and planned spending on citizen security and social programs.  The order remains in effect while the court considers a challenge to how those bonds were approved in the National Assembly.

El Faro described the legal challenges here.   The bonds originally failed to pass by one vote of the super majority needed to approve such borrowing.   The website for the National Assembly indicated that the measure was then removed from the legislative calendar and sent to archive.   Later that night, the GANA deputy who had abstained from voting for the measure departed.    A back-up deputy from GANA took her place.   The bond approval measure was recalled to the floor where the back-up deputy cast his vote for the measure, allowing it to pass by one vote.

The challenge before the Constitutional Chamber alleges two things.   First, the back-up deputy should not have been allowed to vote because he was not the back-up for the GANA deputy who had left the legislature, but was the back-up for a different deputy.    Second, the Constituion indicates that any measure sent to archive cannot be voted on again until six months have passed.   Here only a few hours had passed.

The FMLN and GANA who jointly control the National Assembly were outraged, seeing this action by the court as just another example of the Constitutional Chamber overreaching its authority, and again pledging to introduce measures to limit the court's power.

The executive branch expressed disappointment in the actions of the Constitutional Chamber, calling the injunction a "hard blow" against the Salvadoran people and wishing the Chamber had acted with more prudence.   The government spokesman claimed the first $100 million of borrowing had been intended to strengthen the public security apparatus in dealing with the current wave of violence.

This is yet another step in the various branches of government testing the limits of what it means to be truly governed by a constitution.

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