El Salvador's president vetoes controversial war crimes law

FILE PHOTO: President of El Salvador Nayib Bukele speaks in a news conference about government security policy in San Salvador, El Salvador July 2, 2019. REUTERS/Jose Cabezas

SAN SALVADOR (Reuters) - El Salvador President Nayib Bukele on Friday vetoed a controversial law intended to allow the prosecution of crimes committed during the country’s bloody civil war, arguing it was not in the interest of victims.

Congress had narrowly approved the law on Wednesday but opponents criticize that it would allow judges to substantially reduce the sentences of perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

“We issue a veto,” the president said in a statement, in which he called the law a fraud. “It is simply an amnesty law.” Human rights organizations and families of victims had asked him to veto it.

El Salvador’s civil war, which pitted the former Farabundo Marti Front for National Liberation (FMLN) against the country’s army, lasted from 1980 to 1992. It left 75,000 dead and 8,000 missing.

In order to overrule the president’s veto, lawmakers would need 56 out of the 84 possible votes in a new round of voting. On Wednesday, 44 lawmakers had voted in favor of the law.

Reporting by Nelson Renteria in San Salvador; Editing by Stefanie Eschenbacher