Mexico’s Supreme Court rules probe against former presidents is constitutional, backs referendum

The referendum proposes legal action against five former presidents

Mexico’s Supreme Court rules probe against former presidents is constitutional, backs referendum
In the end, 6 ministers voted in favor of the referendum, while only 4 were against it - Photo: File photo
English 01/10/2020 15:51 Newsroom & Agencies Mexico City Actualizada 16:09

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After President López Obrador proposed a referendum so people would decide whether or not authorities should probe former Mexican presidents over corruption and citizens collected signatures to back the proposal, the Supreme Court ruled the referendum is constitutional.

The referendum proposes legal action against five former presidents: Carlos Salinas de Gortari, Ernesto Zedillo, Vicente Fox, Felipe Calderón, and Enrique Peña Nieto.

According to minister Luis María Aguilar, who argues the project is unconstitutional, Mexican ex-presidents could face trial without the need to launch a referendum.

Minister Arturo Zaldívar, the head of the Supreme Court, ruled the court would only discuss the referendum, not the specific question formulated by the federal government.

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During the discussion, Aguilar said the court acknowledges referendums are meant to empower society and protect human rights and the rule of law; however, he argued the referendum would condition the validity and effectiveness of human rights.

Zaldívar voted against the project. He argued that the Supreme Court cannot repress society’s right to participation, and added that the referendum wouldn’t have binding effects.

In the end, 6 ministers voted in favor of the referendum, while only 4 were against it. Nevertheless, the Supreme Court will analyze the question proposed by the President.

As submitted by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the referendum question states: “Do you agree or not that the relevant authorities should, in accordance with the applicable laws and procedures, investigate and if appropriate punish, the presumed crimes committed by former presidents” and then goes on to name five of Mexico’s six living ex-presidents.

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Five ex-presidents come under fire

A few weeks ago, López Obrador explained the reasons that motivated him to propose the referendum. 

Regarding Carlos Salinas de Gortari, President López Obrador said inequality in the country reached an alarming surge during his administration, between 1988 and 1994. He added that Carlos Salinas gave away national companies to national and international investors.
The Mexican President has said Ernesto Zedillo, who governed Mexico from 1994 to 2000, continued the policies implemented by Salinas de Gortari. He has also mentioned the “Fobaproa” case and said Mexico will finish paying that debt until 2070. 
López Obrador said Vicente Fox meddled the 2006 election to benefit Felipe Calderón and prevent him from becoming president. 
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In the case of Felipe Calderón Hinojosa, 2006-2012, López Obrador said Calderón launched a war on drugs that exacerbated violence and resulted in criminal organizations controlling vast areas. He has also mentioned Genaro García Luna, appointed as the Security Minister by Calderón, who is currently in a U.S. prison after being accused of taking bribes from the Sinaloa Cartel. 

Regarding Enrique Peña Nieto, his predecessor, President López Obrador has said the PRI used irregular funds during the 2012 presidential campaign. He has also mentioned his ties to Emilio Lozoya Austin, who recently said Peña Nieto used Odebrecht bribes to fund his campaign. Furthermore, Lozoya has also said the Peña Nieto administration bribed opposition lawmakers so they would approve a series of reforms. 

López Obrador’s petition

EL UNIVERSAL obtained a copy of the document López Obrador submitted to the Senate. The arguments used by the President to push for the referendum are: 

1. Between 1988 and 2018, Mexico witnessed the disproportionate concentration of wealth, embezzlement, privatization of public goods, widespread corruption, fraudulent elections, human rights violations, and impunity.

2. The implementation of political and economic policies that are elitist, anti-democratic, anti-national, and anti-popular. The human, social, and national disasters Mexico registered in the last 30 years were there result of the actions of those who governed the country.

3. Neoliberalism resulted in thousands of deaths, enforced disappearances, as well as a surge in poverty, inequality, marginalization, among other issues.