Soldiers entered El Salvador’s parliament Sunday as the president demanded lawmakers approve a $109 million loan to equip the military and police to fight against violent gangs.
Nayib Bukele called an extraordinary weekend session of parliament to ask it approve a loan that has pitted the executive against lawmakers in a country with one of the world’s highest murder rates.
Before his entry, heavily armed police and soldiers with rifles and wearing body armor entered the chamber and stood guard – a move not seen since the end of the country’s civil war in 1992.
“If these good-for-nothings (lawmakers) do not approve the Territorial Control Plan this week we will call them to hold a session again next Sunday,” Bukele said in a speech to supporters outside the parliament.
Amnesty International said in a statement posted on Twitter that the military presence “could mark the beginning of a dangerous route for institutions and for human rights in the country.”
— elsalvador.com (@elsalvadorcom) February 9, 2020
The European Union, meanwhile, expressed “great concern” over the “confrontation” between Salvadoran institutions.
Bukele, who took office last June, has pledged to tackle gang violence and intends using the loan to better equip the military and police, but lawmakers refused to sit for an extra session over the weekend to debate the issue.
Bukele also called on supporters to gather outside parliament and help pressure the politicians.
“When officials break the constitutional order, the Salvadoran people have the right to insurrection to remove those officials,” Bukele said.
The presence of troops prompted international cries of concern.
El Salvador is one of the world’s most dangerous nations – excluding those enduring an armed conflict – with an average of 35.6 homicides per 100,000 people last year.