President of the National Electoral Institute Lorenzo Córdova. Photo: INE

By KELIN DILLON

Mexico’s National Electoral Institute (INE) and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador publicly clashed heads this week over whether or not AMLO will be able to hold his daily press conferences during the upcoming mideterm elections this June.

Lorenzo Córdova, president of the INE, said on Tuesday, Jan. 12, that López Obrador would have to suspend his public morning briefings from beginning to end of the campaigns for the upcoming elections, during which over 21,000 positions will be up for vote, to prevent the unconstitutional use of his public platform to influence voters.

Article 134 of the Mexican Constitution prohibits the president of Mexico from “using public resources in favor or against a party,” as well as “personalized propaganda” and “speaking for or against any party.” 

AMLO addressed Córdova’s statement during his press conference on the morning of Wednesday, Jan.13, when he insisted that if the INE tried to prevent his press conferences, the courts would strike down its decision.

Mexican courts previously sided with AMLO during another battle with the INE late last year. The electoral institute issued a warning against López Obrador using the aforementioned Article 134, saying he overstepped boundaries by talking against opposition parties repeatedly during his morning briefings. The courts, however, struck down this warning, perhaps setting a precedent for the next legal confrontation.

López Obrador called the INE’s upcoming restrictions on his briefings “an act of censorship,” saying the proposal is an “offense, an attack on freedom.”

Mexico’s northern neighbor, the United States, went through its own censorship drama last week, when Twitter, Facebook and various other social networks decided to suspend or permanently remove the current U.S. President Donald J. Trump from their platforms.

The online powerhouses justified their actions by saying Trump violated their sites’ terms of service when he posted messages inciting his followers to storm the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, resulting in five deaths, and creating much controversy internationally over what exactly constitutes censorship.

AMLO referenced his contemporary’s contention in his disavowment of the INE’s actions, saying “censorship is already in fashion worldwide.” 

“They already want to silence us,” continued López Obrador. “It is an attitude of great intolerance, how are they going to take away the right of expression, of demonstration, how do they take away the people’s right to information?”

Córdova clarified the INE’s position after AMLO’s press conference through a video message, saying that it will not suspend the presidential events themselves, but avoid their full transmission in accordance with the law, something López Obrador publicly agreed with back during elections in 2019, though he has backtracked now.

“The criteria in force have been applied in the last two years and establish that, during electoral campaigns, the entire transmission of these conferences should be suspended,” said Córdova.

“Since they promote the achievements of the government, they constitute government propaganda whose dissemination is prohibited during the campaigns, according to our constitution.”

Córdova also affirmed that the INE promotes freedom of press without reservation, but that “the conditions of equity and legality in political competition must also be maintained” at the same time. 

The INE’s president insisted the autonomous organization would “safeguard” Mexican’s right to a fair vote during the upcoming elections “in accordance with its constitutional powers.”

According to the electoral institute, AMLO’s press conferences should suspend transmission on April 4, the first day of the electoral campaign process for June’s upcoming vote.

With several months left between then and now, plenty of time remains for the INE and López Obrador’s back-and-forth rhetoric to continue before any discussed changes occur.

…Jan. 14, 2021

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