President Nayib Bukele of El Salvador publicized on September 6 his intent to establish CICIES or International Commission against Corruption and Impunity in El Salvador, hand-in-hand with the Organization of American States (OAS). This is to revamp the ideologically corrupt and divided political system that was Bukele’s yearning ever since he became aware of the success rate of CICIG, Guatemala’s anti-corruption commission. Salvadorans anticipate the same triumph with regard to fighting political corruption and criminal networks.
However, it is still undecided who will manage the commission on anti-corruption on El Salvador and how it will be funded and organized. It seems that the treaty with the OAS was rushed just to get to Bukele’s 100 days’ target to appoint the body but in reality, it will still take months before the commission will be functioning.
Some are concerned with the effectiveness and transparency the body will be, but according to the president, the CICIES will be working hand-in-hand with the executive department and the El Salvador police instead of carrying out the investigations with the office of the Attorney General that would still require the approval of the legislative. These restrictions make it simpler to get the body ongoing, but it could also mean that investigators will be a little hesitant to purse cases associated with the administration and will mostly focus on the previous administration.
The role of the OAS with regard to the anti-corruption commission raised eyebrows. The OAS progressed quickly to publicize a mandate for the CICIES just after a quick discussion with only the members of the executive department of El Salvador – not even with the office of the Attorney General. The enthusiasm showed by the OAS is quite similar to that in 2015 with Honduras where they want to run a new mission that resulted in agreeing to a weaker order than Guatemala’s anti-corruption commission for the MACCHI or Mission in Support of the Fight against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras
OAS announced that they will be actively collaborating with El Salvador which implies that they will take on all the functions of CICIES that include joining in criminal investigations; a role originally yielded to the United Nations by the government. The involvement of the United Nations on carrying out investigations would further strengthen the standing of CICIES.
The experience in Honduras gives OAS a reason to stop. They have too promptly agreed with the government’s urges in the commission’ structure and even appointed inappropriate people with an inapt background for the anti-impunity mission. Even though some of the practices were already improved, there are still concerns with regard to hiring, political factors, and budget management that affects the mission.
Finally, the president’s delay in declaring the agreement elevated some questions regarding his commitment to the commission. The government allegedly didn’t extend to the UN even though the draft has been on the president’s desk weeks after his election. Others guessed that Bukele’s unhurried action towards the commission could show pressure from the US officials who didn’t see the need for support from an International Organization. However, the US officials including the new US ambassador have expressed their intention to support an anti-corruption commission should the president decide to make one.
Should Bukele choose a more independent body for CICIES, it will push back the idea that he is only for the show. However, it will need an order from the legislative branch; it will only be authorized to scrutinize misdeeds by the executive branch.
If Salvadorans expect the same success with CICIG, then they should urge the UN to take part in the investigations. The US legislators could assist in facilitating a UN investigative mandate should they choose to do so.
Eventually, most people in Salvador would certainly want CICIES to succeed. Nonetheless, there is a possibility that the commission has started wrong