Contested Mexican Electoral Tribunal head José Luis Vargas Valdez. Photo: Google

By KELIN DILLON

Nine months after he became president of the Electoral Tribunal of Mexico’s Federal Judicial Branch (TEPJF), Judge José Luis Vargas was dismissed from his role by his fellow judges in the judicial body, with five out of the seven voting for his removal on Wednesday, Aug. 4, though controversy has ensued since as Vargas has refused to step away from his post.

Just five days before the decision, the country’s Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) reopened an investigation into Vargas’s alleged illegal enrichment and the laundering of a reported 30 million pesos, fixing a close microscope to the judiciary official’s actions. Two complaints had previously been filed against him in February 2020 and June 2021, then dismissed by the Attorney General’s Office (FGR) until a judge ruled for their reopening last week on July 30.

During their deliberation on Vargas’ fate in the Electoral Tribunal, his fellow judges aired an extended list of grievances about their former president’s actions, including disrespect for his colleagues both publicly and behind closed doors.

“It would be serious for us to act, as members of this Superior Chamber, if we continue to allow more abuses from Vargas,” said Judge Janine Otálora.

The judges voted to replace Vargas as president with Judge Reyes Rodríguez for the remainder of the presidential term that is set to finish in 2023. Rodríguez has notably been a vocal opponent of Vargas during judiciary sessions throughout the latter’s time in office.

Vargas is now claiming that the session resulting in his dismissal was a “constitutional breach” as he should only be removed by law by his own resignation, which he has no plans of submitting, leaving the TEPJF’s Electoral Tribunal with two active presidents at the moment.

Many members of Mexico’s Chamber of Deputies expressed their displeasure at the exposure of the judicial branch’s clear fractures, leading to the president of the Senate Political Coordination Board Ricardo Monreal suggesting for the chamber and Supreme Court to intervene in the situation to “avoid a constitutional crisis.”

 

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