SAN SALVADOR (Reuters) – Supporters of Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele gathered on Sunday to press lawmakers to approve a $109 million loan Bukele wants to bolster his plan to better equip police and soldiers in the fight against crime.
Bukele, who on Friday warned lawmakers that citizens have the right to “insurrection,” summoned his supporters to congregate outside the legislative building to drum up support for the loan.
The president’s move to pressure lawmakers was backed by defense minister René Merino Monroy and police director Mauricio Arriaza Chicas but was questioned by human rights organizations.
Invoking an article of the constitution, Bukele said Thursday that his ministers had called on congress to approve the loan immediately.
On Sunday, hundreds of Salvadorans responded to Bukele’s call to demonstrate, waiving banners and blowing whistles as soldiers and police officers stood by to protect them, according to a Reuters witness.
“We are here because of the insecurity we have in our country, and the lawmakers do not want to recognize that,” said Adelma Campos, a 43-year-old housewife. “They do not want to work for the people who gave them their votes.”
Although the murder rate in El Salvador declined steeply last year, authorities continue to battle gangs that control vast territory in the Central American country.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in a statement on Sunday called for “dialogue and full respect for democratic institutions to guarantee the rule of law, including the independence of the branches of public power.”
Reporting by Nelson Renteria; writing by Julia Love; editing by Grant McCool