El Salvador's president is criticized for cyber espionage and currency change

In the spring of 2021, one was reported authoritarian development in El Salvador, which was marred by a military storm of parliament and the removal of the majority of judges in the country's Supreme Court. But what has the development been like since then?

Well, among other things, several restructurings of the country's legal system have been implemented. The new laws means that judges and prosecutors over the age of 60, or alternatively over 30 years in the post, automatically lose their jobs. This, according to critics, erodes the national judiciary as the appointment of new judges is decided by the Supreme Court, which in turn consists largely of judges appointed by current President Nayib Bukele and his allies. In addition, the Supreme Court voted in favor of enabling President Bukele to stand for re-election. In the past, this has been an impossibility as the term of office is regulated by the country's constitution in an attempt to secure democratic and legitimate election processes.

These steps have not gone unnoticed. Harsh criticism has emerged from both members of Congress and activists. One of those who has sharply criticized the legal restructuring is Congressman Anabel Belloso, a member of the opposition.

"The state stopped working to serve the people and turned into serving only one person," Belloso wrote. Twitter in September last year.

Bitcoin is introduced as the official currency

It's not just legal processes that have changed in El Salvador over the past year. In September 2021, the cryptocurrency was adopted Bitcoin as an official currency in the country - something that has met with mixed reactions. President Bukele and the government, on the one hand, believed that Bitcoin would enable easy-to-access and cross-border currency trading, and above all make it easier to bring money back into the country. While critics, on the other hand, argued that Bukele acted irresponsibly and risked the country's economic stability in a currency with a high degree of risk and unpredictability.

Bitcoin was introduced in the fall of 2021 as the official currency of El Salvador. Since then, the IMF, among others, has criticized the decision and appealed to President Bukele to regret the decision. Photo: vjkombajn. Source: Pixabay.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the United States have also sharply criticized the introduction of Bitcoin and the laws that replaced each other during the year. Among other things, the IMF has repeatedly urged the government to withdraw Bitcoin as the official currency and pointed to financial, economic and legal side effects. Central government debt is estimated to amount to just over 96 percent of the country's GDP by 2026 if the debt continues at the same rate as today.

Study reveals: journalists and activists have been monitored with espionage tools

In early 2022, another scandal was discovered in the country. About thirty journalists and activists have systematically monitored with the help of the spy program Pegasus - previously used by governments for the purpose of guarding critics. More than 35 individuals, mostly residents of the government-critical newspaper El Faro, have been closely monitored between the summer of 2020 until November 2021. This shows a research study at the Canadian University of Toronto.

Researcher John Scott-Railton, at the Citizen Lab research institute belonging to the University of Toronta, believes that the fact that journalists and activists have been monitored in combination with threats of physical harm and a harsher climate makes the situation even more worrying.

"This type of event might not surprise you if it was a dictatorship, but El Salvador is a democracy, if only on paper," says Scott-Railton.

The Latin American head of the human rights organization Human Rights Watch, José Miguel Vivanco, is one of those who has sharply criticized President Bukele and the changes that have been made to the country's legal system. Photo: Center for Strategic & International Studies. Source: Flickr.

If the previous report from the spring of 2021 showed a hint of an authoritarian increase, we can see today how this has largely been completed. Criticism comes from all sides, but the outside world is largely handcuffed with no alternatives to prevent de-democratization. Jose Miguel Vivanco, head of the American unit at Human Rights Watch and critic of President Bukele, is on the same track and warning about that the country may be on the same route as Nicaragua and Honduras have done in the past. 

- Democracy in El Salvador stands and weighs on the edge towards the abyss, says Miguel Vivanco. 

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