AMLO Goes for the Judiciary’s Jugular as Plan B Payback
By KELIN DILLON
Despite Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s (AMLO) continued attempts to convince the public of his dedication to democracy, the federal executive’s repeated pattern of lashing out against those who dare to defy him and bending the law to his will has transformed his purportedly populist platform into what some call an authoritarian regime. Now, AMLO has turned his never-ending ire toward Mexico’s Supreme Court (SCJN), announcing a scheme to defund Mexico’s court and reshape its justices’ appointment process for his own benefit.
Following the SCJN’s decision to invalidate the first half of López Obrador’s contentious Plan B electoral reform due to violations of the legislative process – democratic breaches purportedly committed by AMLO’s own National Regeneration Movement (Morena) at the federal executive’s own prompting – López Obrador took to his daily morning press conference on Tuesday, May 9, to announce his so-called Plan C electoral reform as the tertiary act of his quest to shift the structure of Mexico’s electoral process in his favor.
But Plan C’s proposal carries a vital difference from its now-defunct and equally controversial predecessors. Rather than uniquely target Mexico’s autonomous electoral body, the National Electoral Institute (INE), Plan C expands its reformation sights to the SCJN, the latest enemy in AMLO’s long list of adversaries.
With Plan C, López Obrador aims to alter the appointment structure of the SCJN justices into that of a popular vote by the people, saying the current era of the SCJN “has no remedy” and “it is rotten” and ironically claiming the SCJN rejection of Plan B was a decision of “arrogance and authoritarianism.”
While they say that people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones, that’s far from the case of López Obrador’s modus operandi. In his characteristically retributive style, AMLO went on to reveal his intentions of defunding the SCJN’s 20 billion-peso trust, and potentially slashing its justices’ 300,000-peso monthly salary, 5.5 million-peso monthly hiring budget and the justices’ additional bonuses and benefits – all while defending the corruption and illicit financial crimes purportedly committed by his own son, Andrés López Beltrán, against the Mexican Treasury.
Characterizing the alleged 100 million pesos worth of government contracts illicitly doled out to López Beltrán and his cronies as “nothing” as recently as May 5, AMLO’s completely arbitrary interpretation of public funds and laissez-faire attitude toward financial corruption committed by people in his own camp makes his thirst for vengeance against the SCJN’s budget look both petty and hypocritical.
Furthermore, López Obrador’s proposal to change the appointment of SCJN justices into a popular vote is poised to cost Mexico – and its taxpaying citizens – billions and billions of pesos per election, demonstrating that AMLO’s fiscal attack against the SCJN has nothing to do with the nation’s finances and everything to do with revenge.
The logistics of holding a popular election for SCJN justices would also create additional issues in the appointment process, as National Action Party (PAN) member, President of the Congress of the Union and President of the Board of Directors of the Chamber of Deputies Santiago Creel pointed out on Tuesday, May 9.
“What would be the campaign platform of these candidates?” questioned Creel. “Who would finance them? Who would pay for an election? An election such as this costs around five or six billion pesos, if it is an election with all the ballot boxes in the entire country. Does López Obrador want this?”
AMLO’s thirst for retribution against the SCJN didn’t stop there, with the Mexican federal executive also floating the idea of impeaching SCJN justices for their actions “in the event that fundamental principles of the Mexican Constitution are violated and the violation or invasion of the balance of powers of other federal branches is systematically reiterated.”
While the impeachment of an SCJN justice is legally admissible under article 110 of the Mexican Constitution if their decisions are found in violation of the article’s specified provisions, experts say the court’s decision to strike down Plan B for violations of the legislative process in line with Mexican law is far from an impeachable offense.
But as López Obrador’s goal to fill the Chamber of Deputies – which acts as the investigative and prosecuting body during an SCJN impeachment trial – with two-thirds majority of Morena deputies during the 2024 elections, any SCJN justice that pushes back against the party’s will could be easily impeached by the Morena qualified majority if AMLO’s vision for 2024 does indeed come to pass, which could in turn disrupt the court’s essential impartiality – which, some say, is AMLO’s ultimate intention.
As proven time and time again, those who fall in line with López Obrador’s wishes, no matter how authoritarian his initiative, are showered in impunity for any criminal conduct or illegal activity, while those who go against him – even in the name of the law and Mexican democracy – become public enemy Number One. And if AMLO’s intented vision for the future of the SCJN does come to fruition, it means the highest court in all of Mexico could dishearteningly transform from the former into the latter.
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