New York Law Group Condemns AMLO Anew for Attacks on Judiciary
By MARK LORENZANA
The recent spate of verbal attacks by Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) on Mexico’s Supreme Court (SCJN) — particularly against Chief Justice Norma Piña — has yet again earned the condemnation of the New York City Bar Association (City Bar) in a statement that the group released on Monday, April 24, in its official website.
“These constant attacks (by López Obrador) compromise the autonomy of the judiciary and endanger the rule of law in Mexico,” said the statement.
The group recalled that it had likewise expressed concern in August of last year about AMLO’s public threats against Mexican federal justices, and accused the president back then of judicial interference.
“Publicly announcing investigations against judges who have issued rulings against the government violates international standards because such conduct directly undermines the respect and independence of the judiciary, intimidates the judges involved, and deters them from independently performing their judicial duties,” said the City Bar statement at that time.
As early as March 2021, however, the group flagged López Obrador for accusing Mexican lawyers of “treason against the country” by representing foreign companies that are expected to take legal positions against the president’s contentious energy reform, saying in a statement that “López Obrador’s baseless accusation of treason against lawyers for engaging in the practice of law is dangerous and runs counter to the United Nations’ Basic Principles.”
The City Bar, in its recent statement, also lamented López Obrador’s “intensified attacks” on Piña in particular.
“On Jan. 26, 2023, President López Obrador directed comments specifically at Chief Justice Piña, stating that if she wants to end corruption, she should start with a ‘cleansing’ of the judiciary. Among other things, President López Obrador maintained, without further explanation, that there has been an increase in judicial decisions against ‘public interest’ since Chief Justice Piña became the head of the Supreme Court,” the statement said. “His reference to ‘public interest’ apparently refers to issues directly related to his government’s policies that judges have suspended for violating constitutional or legal principles.”
The SCJN in January of this year elected Piña as its new presiding magistrate for 2023 to 2026, making her the very first woman to hold the position of SCJN chief justice, replacing Arturo Fernando Zaldívar.
What’s worse, López Obrador’s verbal assaults on Piña, which he delivers regularly from his daily morning press conferences, have triggered violent acts from the president’s supporters. On March 18, 2023, after a rally led by AMLO in Mexico City’s main square Zócalo to commemorate the 85th anniversary of Mexico’s expropriation of foreign oil companies, attendees burned an effigy of Piña. Photographs taken at that rally showed López Obrador’s supporters kicking the cardboard effigy of Piña, and then setting it on fire in the middle of the plaza immediately after the president’s speech.
Before that, on March 1, during one of his morning press conferences, AMLO accused Piña — without proof — that she was allowing criminals to walk free. That statement led to a flood of memes posted online and disseminated on social media of Píña’s photograph titled “The Problem” with a picture of a bullet below titled “The Solution.”
López Obrador’s supporters have also begun a smear campaign against Piña — not as sinister as burning an effigy or disseminating threatening memes, but equally misguided nonetheless. On Tuesday, April 25, members of the Obradorista National Front (FNO) set up tents at the main entrance of the SCJN in Mexico City to collect signatures and demand the resignation of Piña.
Protesters also covered the facade of the SCJN with cardboard signs that said “Out with Norma Piña and her band of corrupt thieves, traitors to the people of Mexico,” “Mexicans, we must not fall asleep … no more looters in the country” and “Out with rats and corrupt judges.”
The most recent attack by the president against the judiciary happened on Wednesday, April 19, when López Obrador publicly accused eight SCJN judges of “responding to the interests of the elites and not to the voice of the people” after the SCJN blocked AMLO’s attempt to place Mexico’s National Guard (GN) under military control. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights at that time urged Mexican authorities to “act quickly on the Supreme Court ruling” and stressed “the importance of independence and separation of powers.”
The City Bar, in its statement, likewise urged López Obrador to “recognize the importance of an independent judiciary for the rule of law and to respect judicial independence in accordance with Mexico’s international law and commitments.”
“The City Bar urges the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, to issue a joint letter to the Mexican government urging the responsible authorities to renew their commitment to the international framework and applicable laws that guarantee judicial independence,” the statement said.