By KELIN DILLON
The fallout of the approval of Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s (AMLO) controversial Plan B electoral reform have only continued to shake the internal dynamics of the autonomous National Electoral Institute (INE) to the core in the weeks since its passage, as the INE General Council’s Friday, March 3, session to approve Roberto Heycher as head of the INE Executive Secretariat – ending the 14-year reign of preceding INE Executive Secretary Edmundo Jacobo as part of Plan B’s reforms in the process – pushed the growing tension between INE President Lorenzo Córdova and the National Regeneration Movement’s (Morena) INE Representative Eurípides Flores to explode in turn.
According to Córdova’s opening statements, the passage of Plan B is a “setback of intolerance and arbitrariness, and an abuse of power to the detriment of the citizen’s democratic conquests,” while Córdova claimed that the reform puts the efficacy of the institute, Mexican democracy and Mexico’s 2024 elections at risk.
When given his opportunity to speak at Friday’s session, Flores was quick to levy accusations against the INE councilors for acting as an “electoral mafia” in the country, allegations seemingly made in hopes of refuting of the councilors’ claims against the reform.
“That is the biggest confusion that the electoral mafia has that is here in the INE and in some spaces of the Electoral Tribunal. They proudly believe that they are democracy, that they have given us the triumphs that the people have won. No, gentlemen, democracy belongs to the people. It belongs to the people,” said Flores at the time.
Córdova swiftly interrupted Flores’ speech to request respect for the attending INE councilors, saying, “I understand the mood of vulgarity, but I am going to ask you to behave with respect toward the directors. You have just made an intervention offending the councilors, and as long as I occupy this presidency, I will not allow it.”
Flores went on to accuse the former INE executive secretary, Jacobo, of having run a term filled that was “abusive and anti-republican,” claims which Flores and Morena’s usual allies, the Labor Party and Green Party, refused to back up. Though Jacobo’s commitment to his post has been highly regarded across the members of the INE council, it should be noted that Jacobo’s 14-year-long stint in the position was only made possible without his official reelection to the post, under the guise of the INE’s transition from its predecessor, the Federal Electoral Institute (IFE).
INE Councilor Uuc-kib Espadas was then prompted to confront Flores, claiming that the Morena party “has a severe problem with reality; they don’t like it very much and they replace it with speech.”
Espadas went on to add that the potential additional of four new Morena electoral advisors, which would be elected by the Morena-led Chamber of Deputies as made possible by Plan B, could make the INE nonfunctional in its intended role as an impartial electoral institute.
“This General Council could be stormed by a faction working unofficially to demolish it,” said Espadas at the time.
“I’m telling you directly and to your face: You are going to have to face all the intrigues that are being planted, because the reform is going to prevail, and you are going to have the responsibility of leading to carry out the organization of the elections with those rules,” responded Flores in turn – an action that once again forced an interruption from Córdova.
“Are you threatening a member of this council?” interjected the INE president. “Because I’m not going to allow that.”
While the heat ramped up between Flores and the rest of the attending INE councilors, another controversial matter came up during the session: the payout Córdova and INE Councilor Ciro Murayama will receive upon leaving their positions as scheduled for within the next 30 days.
As Morena representatives demanded the settlement – which is anticipated to be in the multi-millions of pesos range – be made public ahead of the INE officials’ departures, Córdova claimed the settlement will be made public at the time the duo leave their posts.
For opinion columnist for daily Mexican newspaper El Universal Hernan Gomez Bruera, Córdova’s refusal to announce the severance payout is one of the reasons some aspects of the Plan B financial reform to the INE should be implemented, as the INE councilors continue to cling to huge salaries that remain even higher than that of the federal executive.
“All the directors, except two, protected themselves so as not to earn less than the president; they justified this action as ‘defense of autonomy’ and the ‘rule of law.’ This has deprived them of moral and political authority,” wrote Gomez Bruera.
“In April, when Córdova retires, he will go home with about 9 million pesos. This is a robbery of the nation, no matter how legal it is (although the institution has denied it, of course, as it is the very institution he presides over),” concluded the columnist.