By RICARDO CASTILLO
The rumblings of the upcoming Constitutional Wars are growing thunderous in Mexico’s cloudy political skies.
Over the past two weeks, the group of 12 National Action Party (PAN) governors across the nation are threatening a rebellion against the “dictatorship” of President-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) and his majority in both houses of Congress through the National Regeneration Movement (Morena) political party, and its “little cronies” such as the Labor, Social Encounter and Green Parties.
The reality is that the PAN governors are crying “foul” even before AMLO, a baseball lover, comes to bat. But his recently approved mandates in Congress have irked the PAN governors, including Jalisco Governor-to-be Enrique Alfaro, who is already acting offensively toward the will-be president.
The real fight, however, is over money. During the six-year tem of outgoing-but-still President Enrique Peña Nieto (even if it doesn’t feel like he is governing anymore), Mexico’s governors got used to juicy federal handouts for lots of different state programs. Apparently, that perk will be no more as soon as AMLO grabs the nation’s political pan by the handle.
In the first place, he is “imposing” what these governors consider something that is “unconstitutional,” the presence of what they have labelled a “super delegate” (really, a presidential delegate), who will wield full power to oversee the distribution and destination of federal funds awarded to each state. Given the rotten history of many governors stealing and misusing federal funds galore under the Peña Nieto administration (Chihuahua, Coahuila and Veracruz, being the tip of the iceberg, with one governor already in jail and two accused of theft,) AMLO about a month ago sent a salvo shot telling all Mexico’s governors that there will be no money “for kickbacks, nor negotiations with middlemen.”
The “super delegate” will also report to the president on the actions of the upcoming National Guard, the planned federal policing method AMLO expects to use to clamp down on the proliferation of criminal gangs all over the nation. This “super delegate,” however, will not oversee municipal or state police departments, which are part of a governor’s duty.
Second, the rebellious governors feel that the new delegate will represent an insult to their integrity since they claim that they are being treated “like beggars” by AMLO. In the specific case of Jalisco, the main complaint of the soon-to-be governor is that his key projects are not mentioned in the already-approved 2019 federal budget, which is one, according to AMLO and Congress, of “republican austerity.”
Just for the sake of naming specific plaintiffs who claim that they will sue AMLO’s “intentions” all the way to the Supreme Court, declaring his 2019 budget “unconstitutional,” here are the 12 PAN governors and governors-elect, in alphabetical order by state:
Aguascalientes, Martin Orozco; Baja California, Kiko Vega; Baja California Sur, Carlos Mendoza; Chihuahua, Javier Corral; Durango, José Rosas; Guanajuato, Diego Sinhué Rodríguez; Nayarit, Antonio Echavarría; Puebla, Antonio Gali; Querétaro, Francisco Domínguez: Quintana Roo, Carlos Joaquín: Tamaulipas, Javier García and Yucatán, Mauricio Vila. Joining them now is independent Jalisco Governor-elect Alfaro.
Given the threatening tone that PAN National President Marko Cortés has taken in “opposition” to AMLO’s mandate when the governors first complained, AMLO’s response was; “I will not be blackmailed by anyone,” promising them fair treatment.
The fact is that under the Peña Nieto administration, debt grew exponentially in 25 of Mexico’s 32 states, with five of them hitting the “yellow alert” status, including those gone into the bankruptcy status such as Chihuahua and Veracruz.
Please do take note that although they are already very noisy, the PAN governors do not represent the bulk of state leaders.
And thus far, the PAN governors do not have the backing of the 12 Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) governors, along with whom the PAN could have a real opposition, even if it’s not in Congress. But the PRI governors have not yet gotten their act together and seemingly don’t care about the PAN’s early rebellion pronouncements.
As for the rest of the governorships, AMLO’s Morena commands five states, while the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) has one governor (in Michoacán), and there are two independent governors, the aforementioned governor-to-be of Jalisco and Nuevo León.
The financial reality, however, has it that the centralization of expenditures budgeted by the Finance Secretariat may leave many of the states economically or even politically vulnerable. The governors do recognize the threat of this not-so-agreeable-for-them state of affairs, particularly if AMLO cuts out the “kickbacks” (“moches,” in Mexican political cant) which represent a traditional part of the corruption administrative scheme that AMLO will attempt to undo and with which the forever-pampered PAN governors have been favored.
This is why the early PAN governors’ rebellion may lead to a harsher political confrontation. This will not merely be an ideological confrontation since the PAN indeed represents the Mexican conservative rightwing, while AMLO’s now-in-power Morena is definitely leftist. Yet, when it boils down to money, the confrontation will not be ideological, but constitutional, as every state has certain rights and apparently the PAN is willing to go to a constitutional war to protect them.
The showdown has not yet started, but the rift is on! But as AMLO has put it, his ship will sail out to sea on a stormy-looking day.