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Rescuing Salvadoran Democracy: Part II

Sen. Marco Rubio wants to suspend aid to the country until constitutional order is restored.

My July 30 Americas column—discussing the attempt by El Salvador's president, Mauricio Funes, and his party (known by its Spanish initials as the FMLN) in Congress, to destroy judicial independence and make the country the next Venezuelan domino—hit a nerve in the presidential palace in San Salvador.

El Salvador's ambassador to Washington responded with an Aug. 2 letter in the Journal absolving Mr. Funes of any involvement in his party's refusal in Congress to accept a high court ruling. The president, the letter claimed, is but a mediator in the "conflict."

That was too much for at least one prominent Salvadoran to swallow. On Aug. 9, a former Supreme Court magistrate corrected the record with a letter of his own to the Journal, enumerating the various ways in which Mr. Funes has both facilitated and encouraged the FMLN's assault on the high court.

The failure by the executive branch to impartially defend the rule of law has been cited in plenty of other places, including in a July 23 editorial in the newspaper of the Jesuit University of Central America. In fact, Mr. Funes's support for the FMLN's attempted coup against the court is so well documented in the Salvadoran press that it is hard to believe that his government's protestations were aimed at convincing Salvadorans of his "innocent bystander" claims.

They weren't. The Funes government wasn't talking to Salvadorans when it wrote its letter to the Journal. It was addressing the American taxpayer.

Mr. Funes, it seems, is trying desperately to protect hundreds of millions of dollars in grants from the U.S. Millennium Challenge Corporation. Those grants require, as a quid pro quo, respect for the constitution. My airing of the FMLN's attempted power grab, with Mr. Funes's support, did not jibe with the narrative, featuring him as the unbiased protagonist, that his government has been spinning inside the Beltway. He even sent his foreign minister to Washington in July to advance his version of events.

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