El Salvador Parliament Chief Accuses President Of ‘Attempted Coup’

Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele gestures as he speaks to supporters during a protest outside the Legislative Assembly to make pressure on deputies to approve a loan to invest in security, in San Salvador on February 9, 2020. AFP


The head of El Salvador’s parliament on Monday accused President Nayib Bukele of an “attempted coup” after soldiers entered the building while Bukele demanded lawmakers approve a military loan.

Bukele had “attempted a coup d’etat” against the legislative assembly on Sunday, said Mario Ponce, of the conservative National Coalition Party (PCN), after meeting with fellow political party representatives.

“We cannot respond to the executive branch with a gun to our head,” he said, calling on the government to engage in dialogue.

Bukele called an extraordinary weekend session of parliament to ask it to approve a $109 million loan to equip the military and police to fight against violent gangs.

The loan has pitted the executive against lawmakers in a country with one of the world’s highest murder rates.

Before Bukele’s entry on Sunday, 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.

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.

In response to the troops, the Speaker of Parliament indefinitely suspended Monday’s plenary session, whose only agenda item was the loan requested by Bukele.

The president harshly criticized the postponement on Twitter, accusing the legislative members of “lying… as always.”

“It is not with whims or authoritarianism that things will move forward,” responded opposition MP Jorge Shafick Handal, of the major political party Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN).

The presence of troops prompted international cries of concern.

The European Union on Sunday expressed “great concern” over the “confrontation” between Salvadoran institutions.

Amnesty International said the deployment of armed police and military personnel in front of the legislature brought back memories of the “darkest moments” in El Salvador’s history.

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.

There was no police or military presence visible around the legislative building on Monday.

“It was frightening to see so many soldiers and policemen in Parliament,” Marcos Salguero, a restaurant owner in the center of the capital, told AFP.”


El Salvador Dares Maduro, Expels Venezuela Diplomats


El Salvador ordered Venezuela’s diplomats to leave the country in a challenge to their president Nicolas Maduro, prompting his government to respond by expelling Salvadoran envoys in Caracas on Sunday.

El Salvador under its new President Nayib Bukele is one of more than 50 countries that have declared Maduro’s government in Venezuela illegitimate.

They have switched their recognition to his lead rival, national assembly speaker Juan Guaido, who has declared himself Venezuela’s acting president.

Bukele said El Salvador had ordered “the diplomatic corps from the regime of Nicolas Maduro” to leave the country within 48 hours, in a statement posted on his Twitter account late Saturday.

In response, the Venezuelan foreign ministry said in a statement on Sunday it had declared each of the Salvadoran diplomatic staff in Caracas “persona non grata” and gave them 48 hours to leave.

Maduro’s leftist government has jailed opposition leaders and is accused of using torture and arbitrary arrests as it struggles to hold on to power amid a collapsing economy.

But his government still has support from Russia and China.

Before his election in June, Bukele said he would maintain a “distant” relationship with Caracas and close ties with the United States, Maduro’s biggest diplomatic foes.

US Ambassador Ronald Johnson reacted warmly to El Salvador’s decision.

“We applaud the government of President Nayib Bukele for ensuring that El Salvador is on the right side of history,” he said on Twitter.

US President Donald Trump was one of the first leaders to recognize Guaido when the opposition leader mounted an unsuccessful bid to oust Maduro in April.


First Let Me Take A Selfie, El Salvador’s President Tells UN


El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele, whose social media savvy helped win him power earlier this year, took a selfie before his maiden speech at the UN General Assembly, which he called “obsolete” and suggested scrapping.

In a dark suit and no tie, his hair slicked back in his signature style, the 38-year-old thanked the other leaders present and said he especially wanted to greet his wife and baby daughter sitting in the gallery.

“If you’ll just bear with me a second,” he then added, pulling out his iPhone 11, lifting it up to his grinning face and snapping a photo he later posted on Twitter to his 1.1 million followers.

“Believe me, many more people will see that selfie when I share it than will listen to this speech — I hope I took a good one.”

“A couple of images on Instagram can have more impact than any speech delivered in this assembly,” he said, quipping that the annual summit of the world’s leaders could be done by video-conference.

The conservative businessman and former mayor of the capital San Salvador was sworn into office in June in the small Central American country of 6.6 million people, tasked with turning around grinding poverty and rampant gang violence that are sending thousands fleeing to the United States.

He traded on his telegenic looks and promises of a break with the past, but critics have called him light on policy and substance.

Trump bromance

On Wednesday, he held his first meeting with US President Donald Trump, a fellow prolific social media user and self-styled iconoclast whom Bukele has aggressively courted — a contrast with his predecessor Salvador Sanchez Ceren, a leftist former guerrilla.

The two countries reached an agreement last week to curb illegal migration that opens the door for the United States to send refugees back to the violent Central American country, a move slammed by migrant rights advocates.

“For us, the United States is not only a partner and an ally, but also a friend,” Bukele told reporters after that meeting.

“We’re hoping that this meeting will only strengthen our relationship even more, and I think it will because, you know, President Trump is very nice and cool, and I’m nice and cool, too. We both use Twitter a lot, so, you know, we’ll get along.”

Talking to journalists on Thursday after his speech, he defended his show of bonhomie with the US leader.

“Someone made fun of the fact that I joked with Trump. Did they want me to come fight with him — or for me put on a cranky face or something?”

On the controversial migration agreement, he appeared to agree that those Salvadorans fleeing to the US were involved in gangs.

“We’ve supported our natural and biggest ally,” he said. “We’ve caught human traffickers, we’ve seized their money, their arms, false documents.”

“El Salvador has to propose a positive migration, academic migration, business migration, work migration, not those with false documents or drugs.”

US And El Salvador Sign Agreement On Asylum To Curb Migration


The United States and El Salvador reached an agreement Friday aimed at curbing illegal migration, opening the door for the US to potentially send refugees back to the violent Central American country.

The deal was announced at a joint press conference in Washington by Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Kevin McAleenan and Salvadoran Foreign Minister Alexandra Hill.

The agreement — which will only go into effect after both countries have implemented new border security and asylum processes — is the latest step by Donald Trump’s administration to curb immigration to the US by leaning on neighbors to take in migrants.

Refugee and migration advocates have condemned the deal.

Cesar Ríos, of the Instituto Salvadoreno del Migrante (Insami), said it implied El Salvador supported the highly controversial US immigration policies, and made his nation part of a “containment strategy.”

But McAleenan said potential of the agreement was that migrants crossing El Salvador could seek protection there, and that “the core of this agreement is to recognize the development of an asylum system in El Salvador and help them develop that capacity.”

He said the deal adds to the “good work” the US is already doing with Guatemala, which with El Salvador and Honduras make up the Northern Triangle of Central America, which has seen a mass migration to the United States by people fleeing poverty and violence.

Last year Trump declared a “zero tolerance” policy on Mexico’s border in the face of the growing arrival of undocumented immigrants, mostly families from Central America.

White House Defends Trump’s Aid Cut To Central America


The White House on Sunday defended President Donald Trump’s decision to cut off aid to three small Central American countries, insisting they weren’t doing enough to stop the flow of migrants to the United States.

Trump announced the aid cut-off to El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala last week and threatened once again to close the US border with Mexico in response to the migrant surge.

“If we’re going to give these countries hundreds of millions of dollars, we would like them to do more,” White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

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The aid has gone to fund programs to combat gangs and foster development in the three countries, with the aim of addressing the root causes of the mass migration.

“If it’s working so well, why are the people still coming?  Why these historic numbers again, 100,000 people will cross the border this month alone,” Mulvaney said.

“It’s not working well enough to help us solve our border crisis.  And that’s what the president’s focused on,” he said.

Critics warned, however, that US funding cuts are likely to worsen conditions, possibly adding to the migrant flow. And they said Trump’s threat to close the border with Mexico if carried out, would hurt the US economy.

Senator Dick Durbin, a Democrat from Illinois, dismissed the threat to close the border as “a totally unrealistic boast” by Trump.

“We need to focus on what’s happening in Central America where three countries are disassembling before our eyes and people are desperately coming to the United States. The president cutting off aid to these countries will not solve this problem,” he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

White House counsellor, Kellyanne Conway spoke on “Fox News Sunday,” insisted Trump’s threat to close the border “certainly isn’t a bluff.”

On Saturday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that, at the president’s direction, the State Department was ending its foreign assistance programs for the three Central American countries for 2017 and 2018.

The State Department did not say how much unspent money was involved in the step, which could be largely symbolic.

In comments to reporters Friday, Trump suggested as much as $500 million is at stake.

“We were giving them $500 million. We were paying them tremendous amounts of money, and we’re not paying them anymore because they haven’t done a thing.”


Zika Virus Triggers Pregnancy Delay Calls

zika virusOfficials in four Latin American and Caribbean nations have warned women to avoid getting pregnant amid concerns over an illness causing severe birth defects.

Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador and Jamaica have recommended delaying pregnancies until more is known about the mosquito-borne Zika virus.

This follows an outbreak in Brazil where nearly 4,000 babies have been born with suspected microcephaly – or abnormally small heads.

Meanwhile, the US health authorities had warned pregnant women to avoid travelling to more than 20 countries in the Americas and beyond, where Zika cases had been registered.

Brazil is experiencing the largest known outbreak of Zika, with most cases in the north-east. Others have been detected in the south-east, an area which includes Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo.

There has been a sharp rise in the number of cases of Zika in several other Latin American countries.

In Colombia, more than 13,500 cases had been reported.


Di Maria Leads Argentina To Victory

di mariaAngel Di Maria captained Argentina to a 2-0 win over El Salvador in their international friendly on Saturday.

The team’s captain, Lionel Messi, missed the game due to a bruised foot.

Argentina coach Gerardo Martino said he decided to not play Messi after a practice on Friday, in which the striker was still showing lingering pain.

“If the player is not ready, there is not a need to put him at risk,” Martino said.

Banega scored with a 54th minute shot that deflected off defender Nestor Renderos and beat goalkeeper Derby Carrillo. Mancuello sealed the win with a free-kick from a tight angle in the 88th.

While Di Maria’s performance was not outstanding, wearing the captain’s band is expected to boost his confidence at Manchester United.

Di Maria has been a full international for Argentina since 2008. He has earned over 50 caps for his country. He scored the goal that won the country gold at the 2008 Olympics, and has also represented them at two World Cups and the 2011 Copa América.

Angel Di Maria beat off competition from the likes of Lionel Messi and Sergio Aguero to win Argentina’s Player of the Year Award for 2014.