MEXICO CITY – Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Wednesday that an informal referendum may be held to allow voters to weigh in on whether five ex-presidents should be subject to investigations and possible prosecution for corruption.
Lopez Obrador, popularly known as AMLO, said at his daily press conference that a non-binding poll may be conducted if Congress does not approve constitutional changes that eliminate restrictions on referendums and make such plebiscites legally binding.
“If this isn’t resolved soon, and if the people ask for it, we’re going to spontaneously hold (the consultation) with citizen participation,” Lopez Obrador said at his daily press conference at the National Palace.
Mexico’s Congress is currently studying a proposed constitutional overhaul that would facilitate more legally binding referendums, but the leftist president said that if it is not approved then an informal process will be carried out to gauge public opinion on that issue.
The leftist head of state had announced last year while still president-elect that a referendum would be held on March 21 to ask voters whether five ex-presidents – Carlos Salinas de Gortari, Ernesto Zedillo, Vicente Fox, Felipe Calderon and Enrique Peña Nieto – should be investigated for corruption and potentially later prosecuted.
But he said last month that no plebiscite would be held because the country’s charter had not been amended in time.
Lopez Obrador made the fight against corruption the centerpiece of his successful run to the presidency last year.
But after winning the July 1, 2018, election, he raised eyebrows when he said that while he favored a zero-tolerance approach on graft going forward he did not believe in launching new investigations of ex-politicians for old acts of corruption.
He also says though that this is a matter that should be put to the voters.
Regarding the level of security currently provided to ex-presidents, Lopez Obrador said that it is not as excessive as in the past.
“The security detail for the protection of (former) President Fox has been reduced,” he said.
The number of guards assigned to accompany that ex-president, a member of the conservative National Action Party (PAN) who governed from 2000 to 2006, has shrunk from eight to five.
Calderon – in office from 2006 to 2012 – once had a large contingent of guards accompanying him, but his security detail has been reduced to 12.
“The situation before was incredible,” Lopez Obrador said, adding that when ex-presidents moved about they were escorted by ambulances and motorcycles and entire streets were closed.
“It’s no longer like that,” AMLO said. “Things are changing.”
In reference to other ex-presidents, he said that neither Salinas de Gortari, who governed from 1988 to 1994; nor Zedillo, in office from 1994 to 2000; nor Peña Nieto, who governed from 2012 to 2018, have a government-provided security detail.