Stephen Morris Blogs

Day 4 in El Salvador - the Supreme Court

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We arrive back at the Hotel Alicante to watch a documentary filmed just before the FMLN offensive of November 1989. The film follows a guerrilla leader of the FMLN as she and her group both plan for the offensive and keep moving to avoid the Salvadoran army. What is remarkable is not just the documentary, but we hear a little of Maria Serrano’s (her nom de guerre) story since then. During the film she mentions several times that after the war she is going to go back to school – it is her lifelong dream. After the peace accords in 1992, she went back to school and became a teacher. In 1997, the FMLN party begged her to run for an assembly seat and she won. But she was not happy in the post and saw the corruption of the political process up close. She left politics to return to teaching, but several years ago she was named the Vice-Governor of her province. Then earlier this year, she was appointed to the President’s cabinet and is now the Minister of the Interior for El Salvador. And we get to speak with her on Tuesday as part of the immersion… pretty cool!

After lunch at the hotel we listen to a Justice of the Supreme Court , Sidney Blanco, who was elected in 2009. What makes his election so significant is that there were four people elected that year who are honest and incorruptible, and all four were put into the Constitutional chamber of the Supreme Court. That is, they rule on the constitutionality of laws in El Salvador. There are other chambers that rule on civil, criminal, and administrative laws. Sidney Blanco was an Assistant Attorney General in the late 1980’s and was involved in seeking justice for those Jesuits who were murdered in November 1989. When it became clear that the then-Attorney General wasn’t going to pursue the case, he quit and became the legal counsel for the Jesuits. His reputation in the country is spotless.

He and his other honest colleagues have made a number of rulings over the past two years that have really angered the ruling parties, so much so that the Assembly passed a (unconstitutional) law two weeks ago that stated that all rulings must be unanimous (there are five justices in the constitutional chamber one of the justices who has been there before is of the old school – hmmmm, shall we say less than honest? ) so the four new justices would be stymied. The country is in an uproar over this law (though the constitutional justices have ruled it invalid), the people have been protesting in the streets (helped by Facebook and Twitter!), and the party that passed the law in the assembly is now furiously backtracking as the people know that their rights are being taken away and they know who is responsible.  We could be living during a true turning point in the history of the Salvadoran people.

We dine at Chevys, though not the chain from the U.S. Some of us drink margaritas…the food is ok but the price is right (very reasonable).

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