The Mexican president has announced plans for a referendum on whether to prosecute his unpopular predecessors, saying he wants the “people” to give the green light to any legal proceedings against the country’s former presidents.
Andres Manuel López Obrador, often referred to as Amlo, submitted a document to the Senate on Tuesday requesting a plebiscite to persecute former presidents during the June 6, 2021
The document outlines numerous complaints in the three decades before Lopez Obrador took office in December 2018, including privatizations filled with friendship, spiraling violence and a growing concentration of wealth.
Lopez Obrador said earlier that he opposed the search for past presidents, saying: “We should not be attached to the past.” But he has experience in presenting conflicting ideas to “people.”
Plans for the plebiscite were revealed when Mexico overcame the double storms of a pandemic that took more than 70,000 lives and a stumbled economy that recently saw its worst contraction since the Great Depression.
“It also allows him to keep the flame of complaints alive and to make people express their frustration, anger and resentment, which is very real,” said Carlos Bravo Regidor, a political analyst in Mexico City.
The plebiscite will cause legal challenges, including the statute of limitations for conduct under all living former presidents, with the exception of Amlo’s immediate predecessor, Enrique Pena Nieto. Mexican law also prohibits holding a referendum on the same day as existing elections.
“Amlo doesn’t think like a lawyer,” said Rodolfo Soriano Nunez, a sociologist in Mexico City. “I’m not betting on Amlo putting people in jail, but we have to deal with these problems.”
The only living president not mentioned by Lopez Obrador is 98-year-old Luis Echeveria – whom Amlo has never publicly criticized. Special prosecutors charged Echeveria with the 1968 massacre in Tlatelolco (in which police, soldiers and paramilitaries killed hundreds of protesters), but he was acquitted by a tribunal in 2007.
Lopez Obrador came to power as an anti-systemic candidate on the agenda to get rid of the graft in the government and abolish the possession of what he considers a corrupt political class.
He takes advantage of the deep aversion to past political corruption scandals, and even after taking office, Amlo still opposes the old regime, often using his daily press conference to overcome past scandals and personal troubles.
Amlo quickly echoed allegations by former national oil company chief Emilio Lozoia, who told prosecutors he had accepted bribes from Brazilian construction company Odebrecht. The money, Lozoya said, funded Pena Nieto’s presidential campaign in 2012 and paid lawmakers support to open a state-controlled oil industry.
But the president’s own family is also plagued by allegations of corruption. A 2015 video recently appeared showing his brother Pio Lopez Obrador accepting cash payments for Amlo’s young political party. Amlo called the money his brother had collected “contributions” and insisted it was not related to the Lozoya case.
In recent weeks, Amlo supporters have mobilized to collect the 2 million signatures needed to trigger a plebiscite.
“We are the people and we pay them, and they stole from us,” said Ariadna Bahena, a student involved in the campaign. “Amlo is not getting rich.”