Electoral Tribunal elects interim president as López Obrador calls for a “sharp” renovation of the justice system
This article first appeared in El Pais on August 10, 2021.
Mexico’s Electoral Tribunal of the Judiciary of the Federation (TEPJF) has appointed magistrate Felipe Alfredo Fuentes Barrera as interim president after the president of the body, José Luis Vargas, and the judge appointed to replace him, Reyes Rodríguez Mondragón, resigned this Monday. After the new appointment, the president of the Supreme Court, Arturo Zaldívar, considered that the crisis had been “overcome”. However, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador disagreed this Tuesday in the Government’s morning press conference and advocated for a “sharp” renewal of the Judicial Power: “I do not trust them”.
José Luis Vargas resigned as president of the Electoral Tribunal after several scandals and an internal crisis of confidence that exploded last week. Last Tuesday, the majority of the magistrates of the Superior Chamber voted to remove the judge, investigated by the Financial Intelligence Unit (UIF) for alleged illicit enrichment, for violating the “principles and duties” of his position and committing “abuses” during his tenure, which began in November. In his place, Reyes Rodríguez Mondragón was appointed, who also left office and has been replaced by Felipe Alfredo Fuentes Barrera until September 1.
“The crisis,” Zaldívar celebrated on Twitter this Tuesday, “has been overcome.” The magistrate had backed Vargas’ dismissal, although he had ruled out that there was a constitutionality crisis in the body. But López Obrador disagreed hours later from the National Palace: “The court is not right, they have not shown to act with rectitude”. The president has given as an example the decision of the TEPJF to remove the candidacies of the aspirants of Guerrero and Michoacán in the elections of June 6 and has insinuated that the ministers of the court “acted under a slogan, not as judges”. “I don’t see them with interest in doing justice,” the president has said.
The president thus deepens the pulse against the Judiciary, an institution he considers dominated by the corruption of “the old regime” and which has been the target of different battles since the beginning of his six-year term. “Democracy has to be in the hands of incorruptible people”, he said and criticized that the magistrates “have done nothing to clean up the Judiciary”.
“They [the judges of the Electoral Tribunal] are supposed to depend on the Judicial Power, but they are completely autonomous because the partidocracy imposed them,” López Obrador has criticized and has urged the Judiciary Council to assume “a more active role” to “moralize” and “pacify” justice. “I am not going to propose a change in the Constitution because I want there to be division and balance of powers,” López Obrador assured this Tuesday, and continued: “I believe that what all Mexicans can do is to demand that judges, magistrates and ministers act with rectitude. And not to stop denouncing until they themselves carry out a reform”.
López Obrador saw in the extension of Arturo Zaldívar’s term as head of the Supreme Court the solution “for there to be a change” in Mexican justice. On Friday, after four months of debate and questions about the constitutionality of the measure promoted by Morena, Zaldívar resigned to preside over the highest court until 2024. The controversy was part of a broader front: the control of the Judiciary Council and the approval of a series of priority reforms for the Government that would even imply a reform of the Constitution itself.