López Obrador Accuses Judiciary of Coup against Executive

Chief Justice Norma Piña. Photo: Google


Coming on the heels of the protest marches on Sunday, May 27, that took place in Mexico City, Monterrey and Guadalajara in defense of the country’s Supreme Court, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) on the morning of Monday in his daily press conference accused the judiciary of staging a “technical coup d’état” against the executive branch.

What reportedly got López Obrador’s goat this time were the additional amparos or injunctions filed against one of his priority megaprojects, the Tren Maya, which AMLO said would not be cancelled regardless of the judiciary “neutralizing the executive branch by stopping its works.”

On Sunday, Mexico’s First District Court in Yucatán levied a new amparo on the construction of the Tren Maya, granting a definitive suspension on all parts of the train’s sections that have not received any environmental clearance from the Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources (Semarnat).

“The judiciary will continue to want to stop the government’s priority works, but they will not be able to, because according to the Constitution, we have the right to carry out works for the benefit of the people. They will not be able to cancel them,” López Obrador said.

“In other words, it is one thing that they are violating the Constitution. But the other thing is, let the justices tell me with a straight face if they are not violating it by earning more than what the president earns. And another thing is that they are preparing to carry out a coup, which will neutralize the executive power. In other words, we can no longer execute anything. It is the judiciary canceling a power, and it would be a technical coup.”

For journalist Enrique Quintana of business-focused daily newspaper El Financiero, AMLO accusing the judiciary of staging a coup against the executive is “treading dangerous grounds for the country.”

“The statement that the Court wants to carry out a ‘technical coup’ by taking resolutions that prevent the Executive from carrying out public works and thus neutralizing its power, as AMLO said yesterday (Monday) morning, implies a very serious accusation,” wrote Quintana in his Tuesday, May 30, column. “Because if the trial of the president is that the head of one of the powers of the Republic, the Supreme Court, tries to carry out a ‘coup d’état,’ what can follow is to seek to neutralize him by force.”

A coup d’état, according to the Royal Spanish Academy (RAE) means “the sudden removal and replacement, by force or other unconstitutional means, of the person who holds political power, or the dismantling of constitutional institutions without following the established procedure.”

“It is not the first time that the president has made accusations to the Court, but the tone has been escalating,” continued Quintana. “Criticism of the Court has reinforced its ‘esprit de corps,’ which is why they have even been counterproductive. If that strategy didn’t work, rest assured that personal attacks will come now. They will look for the alleged weaknesses of each justice and will try to run campaigns to discredit them.”

And the attacks couldn’t come soon enough. On the morning of Tuesday, during AMLO’s daily press conference, Luis Rodríguez Bucio, undersecretary of federal security, accused Piña of “favoring criminals.”

Rodríguez Bucio highlighted in a presentation that Piña allegedly dismissed an administrative complaint against a judge from Aguascalientes who favored four suspects involved in a case of forced disappearance.

“On May 17, both Minister Piña and Judge Maria Rolón dismissed an administrative complaint filed against Judge Beatriz Eugenia Álvarez Rodríguez, who has upheld partial criteria that has benefited four possible perpetrators of the forced disappearance of José Francisco,” said Rodríguez Bucio.

Incidentally, Rodríguez Bucio’s segment during López Obrador’s daily morning press conferences is titled “Judges Who Favor Criminals.”

López Obrador has attacked Piña on several occasions during his morning conferences, and once belittled her work after receiving the 2023 Human Rights Award. At that time, AMLO said that these awards could be obtained at the Plaza de Santo Domingo in Mexico City, a place where fake documents like diplomas and other certificates could be bought. The president also accused Piña of handing down decisions in favor of alleged criminals.

For his part, political commentator F. Bartolome of Mexican daily newspaper Reforma said he believes that the recent outburst of AMLO will only get worse, and that the president “will become more and more controversial, drastic, angry and even mystical” in an effort “to achieve what all presidents have dreamed of and none have achieved since Lázaro Cárdenas exiled Plutarco Elías Calles: to remain in power after leaving office.”

“Imagine (U.S. President) Joe Biden saying in the White House that the Supreme Court is carrying out a technical coup in the United States. After such a statement, would life go on as usual in Washington? Of course not! That would be a major scandal and would cause massive mobilizations,” wrote Bartolome in his Tuesday column. “Although there is still a year and four months to go before this six-year term ends, as the days go by, the president will continue his controversial ramblings so as not to lose the spotlight.”

Piña, for her part — and without alluding to anyone — highlighted the importance of “distinguishing legitimacy with popularity” in a statement during the 25th anniversary of the Federal Institute of Public Defender’s Office on Monday, saying that an adherence to the laws and the Mexican Constitution must be the principles that mark public service, from which a solid social legitimacy should continue to be built.

“Along the way, in the adaptation and evolution of our institution to the demands of the citizenry, we must not confuse legitimacy with popularity,” said Piña. ”That has never been, nor should it be, in our public service mission or in our institutional values.”

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