By Andres Oppenheimer
Now that the U.S. midterm elections are over and — once the final results are in — President Biden will face fewer electoral pressures, it’s time for the U.S. government to break its silence about a dangerous threat to democracy in Mexico.
Mexico’s populist President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has announced plans to dismantle his country’s highly respected National Electoral Institute or INE. The independent electoral-monitoring agency was key to Mexico’s transition to democracy in 2000 after more than seven decades of one-party rule and has remained a guarantor of free and fair elections ever since.
But now, Lopez Obrador’s proposed electoral reform would replace the INE with a much smaller and weaker institution, which would be much easier for his government to control.
Lopez Obrador claims he wants to downsize the INE to cut government waste, saying his plan is part of a wider political reform that would also cut funds for political parties and eliminate 200 of the 500 seats in the lower house of Congress.
But critics counter that the INE’s $706 million annual budget is a small price to pay for maintaining Mexico’s democracy. Compared to the gigantic expenditures for some of the president’s questionable public-works projects, the INE is a small change.
Lopez Obrador is building, among other things, the $18 billion Dos Bocas oil refinery, at a time when clean energies are increasingly likely to replace oil, and as Saudi Arabia and other major oil-rich nations are trying to move away from fossil fuels. Opposition parties planned a huge protest march in support of the INE on Sunday in Mexico City.