Corruption vote

AMLO seeks public support to investigate allegations of corruption against former presidents.

Mexico is preparing to hold a referendum on 1 August 2021 on whether to allow the prosecution of five former presidents for corruption. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (“AMLO”) called on citizens to vote on the issue which spanned what he labelled as the “neoliberal period” under the presidencies of Enrique Peña Nieto, Felipe Calderón, Vicente Fox, Ernesto Zedillo and Carlos Salinas.

The vote received the backing of the Supreme Court, which approved a change to the question of the referendum, excluding the name of the former presidents. If the outcome of the vote allowed the investigation of corrupt practices of former presidents, the Public Prosecution Office would be responsible for opening an investigation into reported allegations of wrongdoing which could eventually result in former presidents facing trial.

Opinion is split. A former senior figure at the electoral commission was irritated, “The consultation is one more of AMLO’s distractions and his general strategy to build a popular court against his opponents. The prosecution of crimes, generating evidence and presenting it in court may not have the desired results, so it is more effective for AMLO to build a perception of artificial ‘justice’.”

“The consultation is one more of AMLO’s distractions and his general strategy to build a popular court against his opponents.”

Former official, electoral commission, Mexico

Others believed it was about time that allegations of corruption against former presidents were investigated, a former official at the Ministry of Interior commented, “The consultation will correct the lack of closure at a time of deep corruption in Mexico. It does not contravene the presumption of innocence or hinder legal processes. Evidence is what matters for the court but it is important that the people express their willingness for this historic review to take place.”

“The consultation will correct the lack of closure at a time of deep corruption in Mexico. It does not contravene the presumption of innocence or hinder legal processes.”

Former official, Ministry of Interior, Mexico

Latest opinion polls show large support for allowing former presidents to face trial on corruption charges. However, government opponents have criticised the plebiscite as a measure to distract pubic attention from the impact of COVID-19 in the economy, high levels of insecurity in the country and more recent accusations of corruption.

The former electoral commission forecasted low turn out but a vote in favour of the investigations, “The mid-terms only attracted 52%, I expect this vote to be lower due to voter fatigue and COVID-19. The curious thing is that, due to he structure of the question, both sides of the political debate may vote in favour of the investigation.”

“The mid-terms only attracted 52%, I expect this vote to be lower due to voter fatigue and COVID-19.”

Former official, electoral commission, Mexico

López Obrador has paid special attention to Carlos Salinas, president between 1988 and 1994, whom he has accused of giving state assets to relatives. But Salinas also has some tricks up his sleeve, in October 2020, the press reported that Salinas told AMLO that he had delicate information regarding his brother and, on 10 July 2021, the Mexican news outlet Latinus published a 2015 video of Martín Jesús López Obrador receiving cash from a political operator.

Some commentators are calling it a witch-hunt, others believe there is enough evidence to convict former presidents of corruption. Ultimately, the courts will decide.

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