MEXICO CITY – Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Monday that he’ll personally request a referendum on whether former heads of state can face trial for corruption, noting that time is running out on an effort to gather signatures for a public vote on the issue.
Lopez Obrador said that activists have been trying to gather the 1.6 million signatures needed to trigger a plebiscite organized by the National Electoral Institute, but have only managed to secure about half of that total ahead of Tuesday’s deadline.
“If they don’t get to the number of signatures, since very little time is left, I’ve already prepared a document, the rough draft of a document … to request the referendum,” the leftist president said in his daily news conference at the National Palace in Mexico City.
Mexican law provides that citizens can request a referendum via signature-gathering campaigns carried out each year between Sept. 1-15.
Over the past two weeks, citizens have tried to force a referendum on whether authorities should be allowed to investigate and potentially try the last five Mexican president for graft and other crimes.
Lopez Obrador has said those ex-heads of state – from Carlos Salinas, who was in office from 1988 to 1994; to Enrique Peña Nieto, who governed from 2012 to 2018 – represent a “neo-liberal period” in which public coffers were looted to the detriment of ordinary Mexicans.
But even though Lopez Obrador conceived of the referendum idea, he has said he personally would vote against allowing his predecessors to face trial because he does not believe in political revenge.
“I understand that citizens are carrying out a campaign to obtain all the signatures. I want to congratulate them, acknowledge them as good citizens, because it’s our right to put participative democracy into practice,” he said on Monday.
But the president said they are losing their battle against time and called for referendum rules to be loosened so more citizen votes can be held.
Lopez Obrador’s political rivals, meanwhile, have called on the president to conduct a legally sound investigation and slammed the referendum plans as a political spectacle.
“Those in so-called political society, or the political class, don’t want people to be the main protagonist,” the president said.