Bukele’s unconstitutional re-election bid in El Salvador


1) Jacobo García, “El Salvador’s Bukele vs the world: Why the president’s re-election bid is sounding alarm bells; The 41-year-old may be the most popular leader in Latin America, but his decision to run for a second term has sparked concerns in the international community,” El País in English, September 19, 2022 (08:23 UTC);

2) Lorena Arroyo, “El Salvador’s Bukele announces bid for re-election despite constitutional ban; The populist leader shares his decision one year after Supreme Court justices appointed by himself ruled that consecutive presidential terms should be allowed,” El País in English, September 16, 2022 (10:05 UTC);


Imagine Donald Trump got the Supreme Court to say he could run for a third term, despite the Constitution’s clear provision limiting presidents to two terms. And he then ran and was elected to a third term, while the Supreme Court rejected all legal appeals to declare the election unconstitutional.

That is exactly what President Nayib Bukele of El Salvador is in the process of doing. Today Juan González, the Director for Western Hemisphere Affairs at the White House National Security Council, when asked to comment on Bukele’s announcement of his intention to run for a second five-year term as president of El Salvador, despite the clear prohibition of a second consecutive term in the Salvadoran constitution, equivocated.

He said he was not an expert on El Salvador and not an expert on Salvadoran coontitutional law. Some thought Bukele’s reelection bid was constitutional, and others thought it was unconstitutional, he asserted. He didn’t express his or the U.S. government’s view on the issue.

Bukele is a very popular president with autocratic tendencies.

Bukele’s hand-picked justices in the Supreme Court’s Constitutional Chamber in a decision last year decided that a reelection bid would be constitutional.

I’ve read the decision. It is an abomination, and will live in history as evidence of political domination of the Supreme Court in El Salvador, on the road to authoritarianism.

If González can’t make a clear call on this question, we should expect that with this kind of thinking he would go along with a third term for Trump in the hypothetical set forth above.

The U.S. needs to oppose Bukele’s intention to seek reelection with all of its force, and with all of its diplomats and officials.

The Trenchant Observer

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James Rowles
"The Trenchant Observer" is edited and published by James Rowles (aka "The Observer"), an author and international lawyer who has taught International Law, Human Rights, and Comparative Law at major U.S. universities, including Harvard, Brandeis, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Kansas. Dr. Rowles is a former staff attorney at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States OAS), in Wasington, D.C., , where he was in charge of Brazil, Haiti, Mexico and the United States, and also worked on complaints from and reports on other countries including Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. As an international development expert, he has worked on Rule of Law, Human Rights, and Judicial Reform in a number of countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and the Russian Federation. In the private sector, Dr. Rowles has worked as an international attorney for a leading national law firm and major global companies, on joint ventures and other matters in a number of countries in Europe (including Russia and the Ukraine), throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and in Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam, China and Japan. The Trenchant Observer blog provides an unfiltered international perspective for news and opinion on current events, in their historical context, drawing on a daily review of leading German, French, Spanish and English newspapers as well as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and other American newspapers, and on sources in other countries relevant to issues being analyzed. Dr. Rowles speaks fluent English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish, and also knows other languages. He holds an S.J.D. or Doctor of Juridical Science in International Law from Harvard University, and a Doctor of Law (J.D.) and a Master of the Science of Law (J.S.M.=LL.M.), from Stanford University. As an undergraduate, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree, also from Stanford, where he graduated “With Great Distinction” (summa cum laude) and received the James Birdsall Weter Prize for the best Senior Honors Thesis in History. In addition to having taught as a Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, Dr. Rowles has been a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University's Center for International Affairs (CFIA). His fellowships include a Stanford Postdoctoral Fellowship in Law and Development, the Rómulo Gallegos Fellowship in International Human Rights awarded by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and a Harvard MacArthur Fellowship in International Peace and Security. Beyond his articles in The Trenchant Observer, he is the author of two books and numerous scholarly articles on subjects of international and comparative law. Currently he is working on a manuscript drawing on some the best articles that have appeared in the blog.