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Mexico’s president wants referendum on trying his predecessors

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has called for an unprecedented referendum on whether five of his predecessors – whose neoliberal policies he blames for rampant corruption, social inequalities, violence “and many other calamities” – should be tried.

Reading the text of his request before it was submitted to the Senate, Mr. López Obrador said the people should be consulted on whether to try Carlos Salinas, Ernesto Zedillo, Vicente Fox, Felipe Calderón and Enrique Peña Nieto, who ruled Mexico between 1988 and 2018..

Analysts called it a political decision ahead of next year’s midterm elections. Mr López Obrador has called for the ballot to be held either on June 6, the same day as the midterm elections, or at a later date.

With majorities in both houses of Congress, Mr. López Obrador would face no legislative obstacles. But the proposal must first go to the Supreme Court, which has 20 days to rule on its constitutionality.

“This violates the principle of the presumption of innocence,” said Diego Valadés, constitutional lawyer.

If the Supreme Court rejects the measure, Carlos Ramírez from Integralia, a consultancy firm, said the president could still “seek a parallel route – to organize a popular poll like at the airport”, referring to an informal consultation in 2018, which he used to do. justify the disposal a partially constructed $ 13 billion airport in Mexico City.

The president, who has made eradicating corruption his main crusade, has since organized other informal polls, including one earlier this year in which a Constellation Brands brewery was being built in the north. Mexico.

“I fear the president is determined to give people the idea that they can decide whether to try ex-presidents and he needs the narrative for the June 2021 midterm elections,” Ramírez said. .

A opinion poll in august According to the newspaper El Universal, at least three-quarters of Mexicans believed that the five former presidents should be tried for alleged crimes committed under their government. In the case of Mr. Peña Nieto, who preceded Mr. López Obrador, almost 90% of people were in favor.

There was no immediate reaction from the five former leaders. Mr. Peña Nieto and Mr. Calderón have in the past denied allegations of wrongdoing, which have escalated in recent months after the arrest of a former head of security and one former head of state oil company Pemex, who served during their tenure.

“I think the president will test the limits to see how far he can go. He will play the victim by saying “they don’t want people to vote,” Ramírez said. “The president will try to keep the idea alive. He wants the ghosts [of the past] on the June 6 ballot for the election to become around him.

Miguel Carbonell, a prominent lawyer, tweeted: “No former president has immunity. There is no obstacle to their being tried NOW if proof is given that they have committed any illegality. Having a consultation to enforce the law is populism, just populism and nothing more.

Mr. López Obrador said he would vote no if there was a ballot.

“I’m not going to cover up obscure past actions, but I’m not looking for retaliation either. . . revenge is not my strong point, ”he said at his daily press conference.

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