Thousands of protesters in downtown Mexico City defend the National Electoral Institute. Photo: Google


Nearly 100,000  protesters trooped to downtown Mexico City’s main square Zócalo on Sunday, Feb. 26, to defend the country’s most important democratic electoral body, the National Electoral Institute (INE), from Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s (AMLO) controversial Plan B electoral reform.

Estimates as to the exact number of protesters varied greatly, from just 90,000 according to the capital government to half a million according to organizers.

The demonstrators, the majority of whom were clad in pink — the color of the INE — and brought flowers to the protest, demanded that Mexico’s Supreme Court (SCJN) reverse the Plan B electoral law, which was approved late Wednesday, Feb. 22, by the Mexican Senate, essentially dismantling the INE. The only thing lacking for the law to be implemented is for López Obrador to publish it in the government’s Official Gazette of the Federation (DOF).

AMLO could exploit a technical loophole, however, to make sure that his Plan B law would passes with no room for anyone to challenge it — wait until the last minute to publish the law in the DOF, in order to avoid any stiff challenge from critics and opposition groups.

“What are we here for?” the organizers shouted from the stage, to which the people responded, “To defend the INE!”

About 120 civil organizations participated in the protest, which was replicated in 116 cities in the country, including several cities in Europe and the United States.

The passage of Plan B “has raised bipartisan concerns in the United States,” according to a report in the Los Angeles Times. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul from the Republican party and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Rob Menendez from the Democratic party released a joint statement warning that “returning Mexico to its dark past of presidentially controlled elections not only sets the clock back on its democracy, but also U.S.-Mexico relations.”

“In spite of his hope to be remembered as a democrat and champion for the country’s most vulnerable, President López Obrador’s ongoing efforts to undermine INE’s autonomy and independence will assuredly cement his legacy as just the opposite,” said the joint statement.

Retired SCJN Justice José Ramón Cossío, who addressed the massive crowd from the stage, said he hoped that the highest court of the country will preserve democracy by reversing the López Obrador’s Plan B law. Cossío added that they are putting their trust in the current SCJN justices.

“I am sure that the justices will consider that the Chamber of Deputies setting the electoral budget by violates the budgetary autonomy of the INE. I do not see how the justices could declare the constitutionality of the legal reforms that have so regrettably diminished the political rights of women,” said Cossío in his speech.

“So far, the justices have only listened to the offensive words of the president and his followers. Those of us who are here want to speak to you with another language, with the language of trust and respect that corresponds to democracy. We want to tell the justices that we are aware of the difficulties that their work implies, of the pressures to which they are being subjected, by those who want to appropriate the Mexican electoral system. We trust them, the justices, in their ability to understand the seriousness of the decisions they make to preserve the democratic life of the country.”

Protesters also left flowers at the entrance of the SCJN, as a symbol of the confidence they have in the justices.

Likewise, dozens of Mexican citizens gathered outside the Mexican embassies in Madrid, Washington D.C., London and Paris, as well as in Geneva in defense of the INE.

“Mexicans in Spain defend our vote,” “Mexico is united today, the INE should not be touched” and “No to Plan B” read some of the cardboard signs in front of the Mexican embassy in Madrid.

For her part, journalist Beatriz Pagés, who also spoke in front of the crowd in the Zócalo, said López Obrador “wants nothing but to destroy the INE.”

“Neither the Zócalo nor the country belongs to a single man. Mexico belongs to everyone, or it belongs to no one. Being silent would make us accomplices in a state crime against democracy, in an electoral reform engineered to tear apart the INE and facilitate a route to an electoral dictatorship,” Pagés said. “Today, those in power want nothing but to destroy the INE, and we are not going to allow it. We want an autonomous, strong and capable electoral institution.”

Meanwhile, Mario Delgado, national leader of AMLO’s leftist National Regeneration Movement (Morena), labeled the protesters “right-wing and “conservatives” and said that the demonstration was “a farce.”

“The march for the supposed defense of democracy is a farce, because those who lead it, those who organized it, actually want to return to the past,” Delgado said. “It was a corrupt past, where they could commit electoral fraud and manipulate the vote.”

Organizers pegged the attendees on Sunday at more than 500,000. The government of Mexico City Governor Claudia Sheinbaum, however, released an unofficial count of 90,000 protesters.

1 Comment

Leave a Reply