MEXICO CITY (CN) — Not to be deterred by the latest hurdle to his electoral reform's “Plan B” in the Supreme Court, Mexico’s president Monday resorted to a not-so-novel third option for pushing the changes he wants through: democracy.
“There is a Plan C — don’t go thinking that this is the end of it all,” President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said during his daily morning press conference. “Don’t vote for the conservative block so that the transformation can continue. Not one vote for the conservatives!”
His comments came in response to Justice Javier Laynez Potisek's decision Friday allowing a suit brought by Mexico’s national electoral authority INE to review the constitutionality of the reform. The move indefinitely suspends the president’s so-called “Plan B,” a legislative alternative to the constitutional reform he originally wanted.
On Saturday, López Obrador ranked the Supreme Court justices among his political enemies that he groups together under the banner of the “mafia of power” whose “only god is money.”
Calling them “supporters of the oligarchy, not of democracy,” he accused the justices of refusing the electoral reform because “they do not want a government of the people.”
Critics have accused the president of attempting to hamstring the INE, limiting its authority in order to augment his own and that of his ruling Morena party. The political struggle has raised eyebrows outside of Mexico, with foreign media and politicians decrying democratic backsliding under López Obrador.
But though he may rhetorically lament having to fall back on the ballot box in order to arrive at his vision for Mexican democracy, the president’s reform is not dead yet.
“The reform has not definitively failed,” said Javier Martín Reyes, a constitutional law professor at Mexico’s National Autonomous University.
Laynez’s decision merely suspends any and all parts of the legislative reform until it is either revoked by means of a legal challenge or the court rules that it is unconstitutional, Reyes said.
“In any case, it is a very important resolution, since it entails that for the moment none of the changes in President López Obrador’s so-called Plan B can be applied,” he added.
Several of the president’s controversial reforms have ended up in the Supreme Court, leading to tension between the two branches of government and worries over the latter’s independence from the others.
An April 2022 ruling on a challenge to his electricity reform raised questions of judicial independence. Suspicions that the court was improperly favoring the president’s agenda were bolstered in response to the unusual way the votes were counted in order to arrive at that ruling.
López Obrador amped up his attacks on the judiciary in January after the court voted to place now Chief Justice Norma Lucía Piña Hernández at the head of the tribunal. With that vote, Piña — and not López Obrador appointee Yasmín Esquivel Mossa — became Mexico’s first woman to lead the high court.
Since last December, Esquivel Mossa has been embroiled in scandal after news broke that she had allegedly plagiarized both her undergraduate and doctoral theses.
In early March, López Obrador said in a press conference that “as soon as the new chief justice arrived, a wave of resolutions in favor of alleged criminals was unleashed.”
Since then, a small but vocal opposition to Piña Hernández has grown among the president’s supporters, some of whom burned a piñata in her image during a March 18 rally called by López Obrador in Mexico City to commemorate the 85th anniversary of the nationalization of Mexico's petroleum industry.
A group of around two dozen of his supporters have staged a sit-in outside Mexico’s Supreme Court to demand Piña Hernández’s ouster.
Calling her a “narco-justice” and using vulgarities in print, spoken word and song, the group attributes the actions of others in the judiciary to her personally without documentation to prove their claims.
They say Piña Hernández is responsible for the unfreezing of bank accounts belonging to the wife of former National Security Secretary Genaro García Luna, who was recently convicted on drug smuggling charges in the United States.
They also hold the chief justice personally responsible for the exoneration of a former government official accused of embezzlement during the previous presidential administration. Neither action was executed by Piña Hernández, but her accusers believe her to be surreptitiously behind them.
“We know this because it hasn’t been just one or two years of this corruption,” said the group’s leader Armando Monter. “It has been almost 100 years of such governments, and we know that they work like this.”
But placing the blame for these acts on the head of the high court is “absolutely irresponsible” and reveals a lack of understanding of how the Mexican government functions, said Reyes.
“The chief justice is just one of the 11 votes on the court,” he said. “Whatever decisions that other lower bodies may make are their responsibility and no one else’s.”
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