Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador on Monday downplayed mass pro-democracy protests that over the weekend rallied against his proposed political reforms.
In his daily morning address, López Obrador said the marches showed his opponents’ true colors.
“I think yesterday’s march was very important. It was a kind of a political, public striptease of Mexican conservatism,” said López Obrador.
Mexicans marched in more than 30 cities, with the largest march in Mexico City, where organizers said more than half a million people showed up. López Obrador’s allies in the city government said fewer than 15,000 people showed up.
López Obrador said fewer than 60,000 people showed up and drew a comparison to his rallies filling Mexico City’s main square, which he said fits up to 125,000 people.
Protesters’ core demand was for López Obrador to withdraw his proposal to disband the country’s electoral authority, the National Electoral Institute (INE), a mainstay of Mexican democracy for the last quarter century.
But López Obrador, who throughout his career has criticized the electoral authority, said defending the INE is just a smokescreen for his opponents.
“The risk of electoral fraud still exists,” he said. “So the INE [protest] was an excuse, a [false] flag, but in the end, those who protested yesterday did it against the transformation that is happening in the country. They did it in favor of the privileges they had before the government I represent. They did it in favor of corruption; they did it in favor of racism, in favor of classism, in favor of discrimination. That’s the bottom line.”
López Obrador has a history of downplaying protests against his government, often blaming “neoliberals” and “conservatives” for the country’s ills.
Still, his political reform proposal would signify the deepest revamp of Mexico’s electoral system since the 1990s, when mass public protests forced the government to decentralize the electoral authority, leading to the end of a one-party system that ruled the country for more than 70 years.