Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. Photo:


In a blow to Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s (AMLO) ongoing efforts to concentrate all political power and federal spending decisions into his person, the country’s Supreme Court (CSJN) on Tuesday, April 5, ruled that he will no longer be able to decide how to discretionally dispose of financial resources saved by his administration’s so-called republican austerity measures.

In a nine-to-two vote, the court annulled a portion of Article 61 of the Federal Budget and Treasury Responsibility Law that allows resources saved by government austerity measures to be allocated to what “by decree determines the head of the executive.”

The justices said that the clause violates the constitutional power of the Chamber of Deputies to authorize the Expenditure Budget.

The reform was approved in conjunction with the issuance of the Federal Republican Austerity Law (LFAR), in force since November 2019, which was endorsed Monday, April 4, for the most part by the SCJN, except for a 10-year lock on former government officials being allowed to work in private companies that were regulated.

“(Flexibility in budget rules) cannot reach the point where the Chamber of Deputies renounces its exclusive power to determine the destination and amount of federal public spending, delegating that power to the executive, since this frustrates the function that the Mexican Constitution attributes to it exclusively: to exercise effective democratic control over federal public spending,” the SCJN said.

Justice Javier Laynez noted that, since 1997, legal reforms have been made in terms of budget control to limit the discretion of the executive office, and that for years it has been foreseen that the savings generated by efficiencies be destined by the executors of the expense for the programs already approved by the Chamber of Deputies.

“The difference in this case is that the faculty is totally open. That would allow financing subsidies, programs, actions, works that had been rejected by the Chamber of Deputies. It is unconstitutional because it is a totally open faculty,” he said.

Three justices even voted for the complete annulment of Article 61, including the part that authorizes the executors of the expense to use the savings in programs already approved, or foreseen in the National Development Plan.

Justices Yasmin Esquivel and Loretta Ortiz were the only dissidents in the vote.

In 2021, the federal government spent 510 billion pesos above what was originally budgeted — a 60 percent increase — to support the state-run Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex) oil venture and the Dos Bocas Refinery. It is not clear if any percentage of this amount came from savings for austerity measures.

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