MEXICO CITY – Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador unveiled and signed on Tuesday an initiative for a referendum on whether his predecessors should be investigated and potentially put on trial for corruption.
Lopez Obrador decided to send that initiative to the Senate because a signature-gathering drive is running out of time to obtain the required total of 1.6 million.
“The information I have is that they’re going to have the required (number of) signatures today, that the signatures are now being organized and that they now have close to 2 million citizen signatures. In any case, since the deadline expires today, I thought it was important to present this document as well so there’s more certainty,” the president said in his regular daily news conference at Mexico City’s National Palace.
On Monday, Lopez Obrador said activists had only managed to gather around 800,000 signatures, or just under half the legal threshold to trigger a plebiscite organized by the National Electoral Institute.
During the news conference, the leftist president read and signed the initiative that was delivered to the Senate just before midday.
In the document, he states that “neoliberalism (market-oriented reform policies) left millions of victims” in the country.
“Between Dec. 1, 1988, and Nov. 30, 2018, Mexico experienced a process characterized by excessive concentration of wealth, monumental devastation to the treasury, privatization of public goods, general corruption, tainted electoral processes,” it said.
The text goes on to say that governing practices during those 30 years “led to uncontrolled growth in violence, public insecurity, massive human rights violations, normalized impunity and the breakdown of the rule of law in vast areas of the national territory.”
Lopez Obrador proposed that the non-binding referendum be on the ballot for the June 6, 2021, midterm congressional elections and pose the following question:
“Do you agree that the competent authorities, adhering to applicable laws and procedures, should investigate and, if necessary, prosecute alleged crimes committed by ex-Presidents Carlos Salinas de Gortari, Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de Leon, Vicente Fox Quesada, Felipe Calderon Hinojosa and Enrique Peña Nieto before, during and after their respective administrations?”
Even though he has specified the alleged crimes of each former president, Lopez Obrador has said he would vote “no” in a potential referendum.
“Past errors can be punished, but what is key is to avoid the crimes of the future. I have said, and I reiterate, that I would vote not to submit them to a trial. Nevertheless, if the consultation is held, I will respect the popular decision, whatever it may be,” he said in his state of the union address on Sept. 1.
Asked then if the referendum is a political ploy, Lopez Obrador said, “it’s not something that’s suddenly sprung to mind” but rather an idea he has been proposing since his inauguration speech in December 2018.
“It’ll help to clarify whether ex-presidents can be legally put on trial or not. There’s a lot of uncertainty about this subject. And it will help if the competent authorities resolve this,” he said.