By RICARDO CASTILLO
Both houses of the Mexican Congress folded on Tuesday, April 30, ending the first part of formal sessions for this year of 2019. There was one surprise as the Senate sent back to the Chamber of Deputies President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s (AMLO) much-touted new law abrogating former President Enrique Peña Nieto’s ill-fated Education Reform.
The bill didn’t make the abrogation grade by a mere one vote. This was a case of a bill has to undo a former constitutional amendment, for which what in the Mexican congressional voting system is known as a “qualified majority” is needed. AMLO’s bill struck out by one vote.
But, what happened? AMLO’s own party, the National Regeneration Movement (Morena), is supposed to have – as Mexicans say – the pan by the handle with a majority in both houses. But this time, something seems to have gone awry.
During the last few hours of the ordinary period of sessions, everything appeared to be in place for Morena to garner the bill’s passing with the full support of the old Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).
Early Tuesday, the bill had been approved “in general” by 95 (out of 128) senators’ votes in favor, 25 against and two abstentions. But three hours later, after several specific points had been discussed, and at the conclusion of the session, senators from the PRI, the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) and the Citizens’ Movement (MC) backed down on their support of Morena and voted against supporting the two-thirds majority of 82 votes needed to whisk the bill by.
The final vote was 81 in favor, 39 against and two abstentions. Morena needed 82 votes and Morena actually had them, but Morena Senator Salvador Jara left the meeting just minutes before and did not cast his vote. This alone sent the bill reeling back to the Chamber of Deputies.
There were five other senators who were absent at the time of voting and how they would have cast their vote is not known.
The next morning, May 1 – Labor Day in Mexico – AMLO held his daily press conference at the National Palace. AMLO’s critics who call him the “Macuspana Illuminati” (a reference to the Tabasco town where he was born, Macuspana), were expecting the president to throw a temper tantrum over the failure of the bill’s passing. AMLO, however, was cool and just said that since there was not a bill turned into law yet, he’d govern by his controversial executive order memorandum in which he instructed his secretaries of Interior (SeGob), Finance and Education to act as if the former law did not exist. He even added he could wait until the next session of Congress, which starts on Sept. 1, for the Education Reform abrogation bill to return to the floor of both houses of Congress.
In the end, however, AMLO’s Morena celebrated at least one victory with the passing of the new Labor Law, which complies with the path imposed by U.S. and Canadian labor unions to approve the new version of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), expected to hit U.S. and Mexico senates and Canada’s parliament later this year.
What the new labor law does is regulate unions in Mexico, which have proven beyond the shadow of a doubt to be a horrendous source of corruption and whose leadership as a general rule operates against the workers’ rights.
Labor Law proponent, Senator and Metallurgy Union leader Napoleón Gómez Urrutia – who spent 10 years in Canada exiled after seeking political asylum against persecution from the administration of former Mexican President Felipe Calderón – said this new law is “in tune” with those of the United States and Canada, as well as with Agreements 87 and 98 of the World Labor Organization in terms of union freedom.
There are a lot of other pieces of legislation going through both mouses of Congress that will be lined up for legislation come September, but for now. the emergency at hand – pushed by AMLO – is for both houses to come up with the regulations for the National Guard, a new police force similar to the FBI that is now inadequately operating under the old Federal Police legislation.
A set of operational regulations for the National Guard is to be discussed in an “extraordinary period” devoted alone to this issue, starting on May 14.
Until then, Congress is in recess.