At his presidential inauguration in December 2018, Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) promised to “guard and keep” the Mexican Constitution. But now, he unabashedly defends an express violation of it. Last week, Mexico’s governing coalition in the Lower House of Congress passed a provision extending the term of Arturo Zaldívar as Mexico’s Supreme Court president.
One of the most important members of AMLO’s party leadership in Congress, representative Pablo Gómez, had said previously that the provision extending Zaldívar’s term was constitutionally not viable. However, AMLO gave the opposite order and his allies ended up approving a violation of the Constitution.
According to AMLO, the lofty principle justifying doing so is to “clean up” the Mexican judicial branch (which certainly has corruption and nepotism issues). If AMLO’s interest truly lay there, he would be vigilant of the legality of the judiciary’s ongoing reform process. But AMLO wants to appoint judges from among his friends, relatives, and Morena party members willing to comply with his whims.
If Zaldívar is an upstanding man, as AMLO trumpets, he must vote in favor of the unconstitutionality of this provision when the controversy comes before the Supreme Court. He should not excuse himself to do it due to a conflict of interest. Any justice respectful of the Constitution should vote likewise. Failure to do so is to condemn future decisions of the Mexican judiciary and of the Supreme Court itself to illegality and illegitimacy.
AMLO has said that having the country’s judiciary at the service of private individuals is incorrect. In reality, that is precisely one of the functions of the judicial branch: to defend individuals from the government if it tramples their rights, including privacy. AMLO often says that the “wise Mexican people” should be consulted on important decisions. Well, the president only says that when he thinks it suits him and through his own sham referenda.
Deep down however, AMLO mistrusts the Mexican people. He never really consults them properly. He is even afraid of Mexico holding elections without his intervention as president in favor of his Morena party and his allies. Back in 2006 when he was in the opposition, AMLO told the then Mexican president Vicente Fox “shut up, chatterbox!”. He was allegedly trying to stop Fox to illegally intervene in that year’s election. But today as president, AMLO has become himself a morning press conference chatterbox. Whatever victories his party pulls off in the coming Mexico’s midterm election will be besmirched with illegality.
One of AMLO’s and his supporters’ favorite phrases is to say that the Mexican opposition is morally defeated. They are right. The parties in the opposition incurred in rampant indecencies and corruption when they were in power. The incredible thing is that only practically three years into AMLO’s presidency, Mexico once again find itself with a mafia of politicians in power. They like to say they are better than previous Mexican politicians because they do not rob as much as others did. AMLO likes to say he is different because he travels in commercial airlines and not in a luxurious presidential jet.
Mexico’s new people in power are indecent and cynical. They cowardly follow their boss’ orders despite many of them knowing they are detrimental to the country’s wellbeing.
The results of this immoral form of government where only AMLO’s wishes matter, are known to any informed citizen. Here are three examples. Thousands of Mexicans are unnecessarily dying or getting sick because the Mexican government has not been able to procure enough medicine for public hospitals. All in the name of an alleged fight against corruption. The AMLO administration has also decided not to vaccinate all of Mexico’s health workers, despite Mexico topping the world list of medical personnel Covid-19 deaths. At the same time, the Mexican government has decided to poison several metropolitan areas by burning dirty fuel oil in state-owned power plants. The reason behind this is AMLO’s idea that refining more crude oil is a good idea despite the fact that the state-run oil firm Pemex loses US $10 on each processed barrel. In addition, Pemex refineries belching out dirty fuel oil which it then transfers to state-owned utility CFE.
The president, with his groveling Congress, does not really care about Mexicans wellbeing or the country’s Constitution being upheld. The coming June midterm election -where AMLO’s majority in Congress is at play- is the opportunity Mexican voters have to put a stop to the political paradox in which we live in: Mexico’s moral renewal can only be achieved by upholding the basic institutional, legal, moral, and ethical principles that guarantee the survival of democracy.
* Carlos Elizondo Mayer-Serra is professor at the School of Government and Public Transformation at Tec de Monterrey, in Mexico City. A Spanish version of this Op-Ed appeared first in Reforma’s newspaper print edition. Twitter: @carloselizondom