Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele brought armed, uniformed soldiers and police into the main chamber of Congress as he called for lawmakers to approve a US$109m loan to fund his public security plans. Mr Bukele had called for an emergency weekend session of the Assembly on 9 February to debate and approve his request for funding from the Central American Bank for Economic Integration, for which he needs a qualified majority of congressional support. On entering Congress, he sat in the seat reserved for the President of Congress and began to pray for patience, suggesting that he would dissolve Congress if lawmakers did not comply with his request. He did not get a quorum for the debate as legislators rejected the session as unconstitutional, not being justified by any real emergency.
President Bukele, who has pledged to combat El Salvador’s high levels of violence, has enjoyed strong public approval during the first year of his presidency and there are those who support this latest act. However, his actions have also attracted widespread criticism at home and abroad. Observers are concerned that the El Salvador’s image will be tarnished if a prolonged political crisis ensues, with potential knock-on effects for the economy and the country’s credit ratings.
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