El Salvador Elections will be held under emergency regime

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By LatAm Reports Editor

The government has maintained for a year and nine months the suspension of some constitutional guarantees of the population as a measure of fighting the gangs, which will remain even on the date of the next elections

With the twenty-second extension of the emergency regime approved Tuesday by New Ideas and their allies in the Legislative Assembly, at the request of the government, three constitutional guarantees on the population on the right of defence, the maximum period of administrative detention and the inviolability of correspondence and telecommunications remain suspended.

Since the implementation of the emergency regime, on 27 March 2022, each following month, the Council of Ministers sent a request to maintain the measure for 30 days, which for this time limit covers the date of the presidential and legislative elections of 4 February 2024.

The exception regime continues, we have sent a new request for the extension of this constitutional measure, we reaffirm once again our commitment for the well-being of Salvadorans of good,” said the Minister of Justice and Public Security, Gustavo Villatoro, on social networks.

Like the previous extensions, the mechanism of dispensation of formalities was used, as the president of the Assembly, Ernesto Castro, said. And when asked if when holding elections under an exceptional regime it could be perceived as intimidation and as propaganda of the officialdom he replied: it is a perception that only criminals have, honest people do not have that perception.

Guillermo Gallegos of GANA considered that it will be positive for the elections to be held under the exceptional regime for voters to reach polling stations.


For his part, Congressman John Wright Sol of Our Time described the emergency regime as an indefinite security policy, given the statements of security officials who point out that gang members are still missing to capture. “It suggests that the government intends to continue to request this extension indefinitely, during the course of the elections as well,” he said.

He considered that one of the doubts is the purification of the electoral roll as to the persons who were arrested in the emergency regime but who were subsequently released.

For me to hold elections in this context of an exceptional regime is regrettable, but it is the reality I feel that an entire country has assimilated, sadly.

John Wright Sol, Our Time MP

Claudia Ortiz, a member of Vamos, also pointed out that the fear could be maintained in society of being able to demonstrate or protest that she feels dissatisfied with the election results and described as a side effect – of the exceptional regime is that it functions as a mechanism of intimidation – society.

Could you maintain that fear, which is now widespread, of speaking out and of pointing out abuses of power. It is a complicated scenario and at the international level it must also be part of electoral observation, he said.

Jaime Guevara, of the Frente Farabundo Martí para la Liberación Nacional (FMNL), commented that establishing an emergency regime in an electoral context occurred in the military dictatorships before the signing of the Peace Accords. “Now we see you in the midst of an election that will be with that particularity,” he said.

César Reyes, deputy of the Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA), said that they do not oppose security measures in the country, but that one of the negative factors is violations of human rights and deaths of detainees under the protection of the state.

The rule of emergency has already become more of an electoral policy on the part of this government, because after two years it cannot be possible for us as a society not yet to find a legal figure or a legal figure in order to be able to address security in our country without having to threaten, first, freedom, second, the rights of innocent Salvadorans.

César Reyes, deputy of ARENA

He added that although there is a perception of security, there are cases of arbitrary detention and other cases of violations that could be crimes against humanity.

Use of regime as a campaign

The deputy of Our Time also believes that the issue of security has been used politically and that it is the spearhead of the current government’s campaign strategy for some positive results in reducing homicides. “But it is still a tool that generates fear and subjects the population to control beyond the control that the state must have over crime,” Wright Sol said.

In addition to the fact of the propaganda maintained by the government in favor of its candidate and the promotion of works despite being within the prohibition period issued by the Electoral Code. Saying that it is an unequal scheme between advertising and the New Ideas and government campaign compared to the opposition almost short, because it is not only unequal, many of the things that are being seen are clearly illegal,” he added.

While Ortiz criticized that the government and its candidates are behaving in a way very similar to what they pointed out, he also points out that the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) has an obligation to act ex officio in the face of advanced campaign practices, illegal campaigning and campaigning that uses public funds.

It is the Tribunal that has to act and not put the sanction after the elections, today is the time that an unequal competition is being generated.

Claudia Ortiz, MP for Vamos

Messages in your favor

The faction leader of the FMLN said that the regime is used in government propaganda and recalled that New Ideas passed a gag law with a reform of the Criminal Code that punished those who disseminated messages alluding to the gangs, which he repealed last November with a prison sentence of 10 to 15.

Now it is in their interest not to have that measure that was silent or trying to silence journalists or people who communicated on this issue and now as they please that measure, they remove it in order to transmit negative messages that left these structures in the country, with the aim of intimidating the population,” he said.

So he doubts whether the elections can be held with real freedom. This event has already happened, but it happened under a military dictatorship, he added.

This article has been translated from the original which first appeared in El Salvador