Hundreds of Salvadorans demonstrated on Friday to denounce President Naguib Bukele’s plan to be re-elected to office after the end of his – theoretically only – term, as well as the imprisonment of “innocents” in the “war” he has waged against gangs for the past year and a half.

“Not to the re-election”, “not one more day”, one read on the placards held by the demonstrators, who mobilized on the day of independence of El Salvador.

“We are marching in unity to say no to the re-election” of the head of state, Sonia Urutia, head of the collective Front of Popular Resistance and Rebellion (Bloque de Resistencia Y Rebeldía Popular), told the press.

During the march, Judge Juan Antonio Duran emphasized that “re-election” of the president is something “absolutely prohibited” by the Constitution.

The Salvadoran president, 42 years old, has already announced that he will run for re-election in 2024. This announcement has sparked strong reactions, focused on whether this decision is compatible with the Constitution.

It was made possible by a controversial decision by Supreme Court judges appointed by the parliamentary majority, by definition favorable to the head of state, since his faction, the New Ideas party, controls the Salvadoran national delegation.

In September 2021, the constitutional division of the Supreme Court interpreted an article of the Constitution in a way that allows Mr Bukele to run.

The constitutional ban on seeking a second consecutive term in the presidency had been observed by all his predecessors.

Opinion polls give Mr Bukele a huge lead. But while nine out of ten Salvadorans approve of the head of state’s actions in driving the “maras” – gangs – off the streets, the methods followed have been criticized by human rights groups and the UN, while analysts are concerned that practically in El Salvador power is exercised by one, who has no inclination to share it, while the mechanisms of control are in the hands of his faction.

Under the state of emergency he declared, authorities are making arrests without a court order. Some 72,600 people were taken to prisons, weighed down by suspicions that they belonged to gangs.

According to the authorities, about 7,000 people who had been arrested unnecessarily were released.

At the demonstration, Patricia Santamaria held a photo of her son, Alex Ernesto, 34, who was finally released “after being unjustly imprisoned since December 2, 2022,” despite “having a clean criminal record.”