By Andres Oppenheimemer
President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s plan to hold an Aug. 1 referendum asking Mexicans whether to prosecute the country’s five living former presidents is not just a stupid waste of money in a nation in desperate need of COVID-19 vaccines — it’s also a dangerous escalation of authoritarian populism in a region where the rule of law is increasingly losing ground.
The referendum, which will cost about $26 million, will be binding if more than 40 percent of registered voters — or about 37 million people — cast their ballots. It will consist of just one question, asking people to vote Yes or No on whether the former heads of state should be put on trial.
Lopez Obrador originally proposed this initiative as a plebiscite that would specifically ask people whether former presidents Carlos Salinas de Gortari (1988-1994,) Ernesto Zedillo (1994-2000,) Vicente Fox (2000-2006,) Felipe Calderon (2006-2012) and Enrique Peña Nieto (2012-2018) should be prosecuted for corruption and human-rights abuses.
The Supreme Court has approved the referendum, but changed the question’s wording, replacing the names of the former presidents with a more-general reference to past public officials. It now asks voters whether they support investigating and prosecuting “political decisions taken in past years by political actors.”
But Lopez Obrador and his Morena party have made it clear that the referendum refers to the former presidents. And given Mexico’s long history of government corruption and human-rights abuses, it’s not surprising that many Mexicans, including some well-known political analysts, support the idea.
By Andres Oppenheimer
Source: The Oppenheimer Report