By RICARDO CASTILLO
After six hours of heated debate, Mexican Chamber of Deputies president-reelect Porfirio Muñoz Ledo decided on Tuesday Sept. 3, to step down from the post. By so doing, he prevented a constitutional crisis within the chamber, which in turn would have reflected in more conflict for the bills that President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) wants to promote.
(For reference, see my column “Muñoz Ledo Keeps Post as Head of Deputies,” which was published in Pulse News Mexico on Tuesday, Sept. 3.)
The announcement came late Tuesday evening, after an umpteenth incident with members of the conservative minority National Action Party (PAN), Who heckled him and called him “spurious” and anti-democratic throughout the afternoon. Muñoz Ledo was even compared to his namesake dictator Porfirio Díaz, who ruled the nation with an iron fist for 34 years. The day before, his National Regeneration Movement (Morena) leftist party backers chanted the rhyme “es un delirio estar con Porfirio” (“It’s a delirium to be with Porfirio”), but suddenly, “Porfirio” and “reelection” were dirty words in the lips of PAN conservatives.
But then again, the moment he called it quits and ceded that perhaps it was time for a PAN member to be president (as dictated by law), these same PAN conservatives easily moved to his side and, along with all the Morena deputies and PAN deputies leader Juan Carlos Romero Hicks, began calling the octogenarian “a veritable statesman” and chanting along with Morena deputies the name “Porfirio, Porfirio,” which no longer was a dirty or offensive word.
What filled Muñoz Ledo’s cup was a moment of routine in the Chamber of Deputies as PAN Deputy Elías Lixa was speaking and went over his allotted time. Muñoz Ledo interrupted him – a routine – to let him know “your time is up.”
“So is yours, but you’re still here.”
The phrase awakened the wrath of the PAN deputies, who started heckling the 86-year old Muñoz Ledo once again, calling him “dictator” and “spurious.”
About the word “spurious,” it must be kept in mind that it was the favorite word AMLO used to describe former Mexican President Felipe Calderón when Calderón was declared election winner in 2006, even if by a nose. AMLO then declared he had been defrauded and that Calderón was “a spurious president.” So in the Muñoz Ledo case, the word was a loaded one, implying that Muñoz Ledo had “stolen” the Chamber of Deputies presidency.
The PAN outcry demanding “democracy” during the day had powerful voices calling for a sensitive settlement of the controversy.
In his Wednesday, Sept. 4, morning press conference, AMLO repeated that he was respectful of the decisions made by the Chamber of Deputies and that it was not in his line on duty to intervene in favor of anyone, including his Morena party mates,.AMLO even hinted that if the deputies got him into hot water – as the Porfirio reelection was doing – he might even resign from the Morena party.
Later in the morning, Interior Secretary Olga Sánchez Cordero called upon the Morena deputies leader in the Chamber, Mario Delgado, to tell him that the attitude the deputies had taken towards reelection of Porfirio was going to cause “problems for the President.” Delgado voiced this to the 259 Morena majority deputies but in the end they insisted in reelection.
The give and take of insults in the discussion of what was touted as the Organic Law of the Congress to allow reelection in the presidency of the Chamber of Deputies for six months lingered all morning until at 3 p.m. Porfirio called the session off for lunch.
At 8 p.m. he was back on the president’s seat under the two huge Mexican flags and without much introduction he spoke:
“I have listened to you. I want to announce my withdrawal. I appreciate very much all the allusions to my person, I have registered amiable ones, some other critical, and some, to call them the least, injurious.”
At all time, however, even at moments of frustration and anger, Muñoz Ledo, former ambassador both to the United Nations and the European Union, kept his language diplomatic while not so some other members of the Chamber of Deputies.
On Wednesday morning, President AMLO celebrated that the law to allow Morena to keep Muñoz Ledo in thepresidency for six more months.
“I celebrate, though that corresponds to a different branch of government, that it was resolved to respect the law in the case of the legislative branch. That is to say, that the organic law was not modified because doing it would have been out of line.”
AMLO added that he wields no power to interfere with the legislative branch of government, “but that doesn’t mean I can’t state my point of view.”
The next step is for the Chamber of Deputies to accept that the new president be from the National Action Party. A new election is on line for Thursday Sept. 5.
For pundits, however, are all rephrasing the old national democratic motto “Effective Suffrage; No Reelection.” My own rephrasing is the one used by Alvaro Obregón (President 1920-1924) when he sought, and got, reelection but was murdered while still president-elect:
“Effective Suffrage No; Reelection.” (Just change the semicolon.)
This time, however, it was Muñoz Ledo who gut gunned down, politically speaking, of course.