By KELIN DILLON
On the morning of Wednesday, March 1, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) used his daily morning press conference as an opportunity to accuse recently elected Supreme Court (SCJN) Chief Justice Norma Piña as unleashing a wave of judicial rulings made in favor of the country’s criminals.
During the conference, López Obrador alleged that the SCJN’s Piña-chaired Federal Judicial Council (CJF) operates merely for decoration, as the federal executive claimed it has not levied any accusations against Mexico’s judges or magistrates.
“Before there was a little more attention, surveillance,” said AMLO at the time, referencing the previous term of Piña’s predecessor – and close associate of López Obrador – Arturo Fernando Zaldívar. “Now that the new justice has arrived, she declares, in extreme formalism, as if the judges were all-encompassing, that they are autonomous, that they can do whatever they want. And the new chief justice barely arrived, and a wave of resolutions in favor of presumed criminals is unleashed.”
López Obrador then went on to allege that the SCJN and CJF operated with more robust judicial surveillance when under the charge of Zaldívar. Notably, AMLO controversially attempted to extend Zaldívar’s post at the top of the SCJN back in 2021, an initiative that was eventually rejected by Zaldívar himself after widespread public and expert pushback against it.
“Before, when Minister Arturo Zaldívar was there, there was a little more vigilance over the judges. Their autonomy was respected, but they were vigilant, from the CJF, which is its function, to monitor the correct conduct of judges, magistrates and ministers,” added AMLO during his March 1 conference.
“The decline of the judiciary that comes from the old regime is infected and plagued by corruption, it is a judicial power that was built to protect the corrupt and the elites of the economic power and the political power of our country, so that is why they issue these constant protections,” continued AMLO.
AMLO pointed to Federal Judge Faustino Gutiérrez Pérez’s Tuesday, Feb. 28, dismissal of an arrest warrant against former Tamaulipas Governor Francisco García Cabeza de Vaca, who was accused of money laundering and organized crime to the tune of 42.1 million pesos, as evidence of the new SCJN chief justice’s hand in the supposed downfall of the Mexican judicial branch.
The arrest warrant was dismissed due to a purported violation of Cabeza de Vaca’s due process rights, though the federal judge’s decision will now be challenged by Mexico’s Attorney General of the Republic (FGR) – an office conveniently headed by another close confidant of AMLO and allegedly corrupt official, Alejandro Gertz Manero.
For Cabeza de Vaca’s part, the former Tamaulipas governor celebrated Tuesday’s overturn of the arrest warrant against him as a victory for justice.
“Today I am announcing the resolution of a federal judge who agrees with me and confirms what I have always told them: I was charged, almost two years ago, for crimes I did not commit,” the former governor announced in a rare video appearance. “That I am innocent of what I was accused of and that, today, justice once again agrees with me.”