Andrés Manuel López Obrador has entered fully into the controversy over the extension of the mandate of the president of the Supreme Court of Justice. Voting in extremis last Thursday in the Senate in favor of extending the position of Arturo Zaldívar as head of the highest court for two years raised a strong dust on the Mexican political and legal scene. Both the opposition, in a minority in both chambers, as well as jurists and international organizations raised their voices warning of the unconstitutionality of a measure that, in their opinion, undermines judicial independence. The president has come to pass this Monday in his morning conference wrapping the decision of the parliament in his ideological interests: “We are not going to have another opportunity like this. If the period is not extended, whoever arrives will be more of the same ”.
López Obrador thus redoubles his pressure on the Judicial Power, in the center of the target during the last weeks as part of his battle against everything that the president identifies as a symbol of the past. “The judges cannot be untouchable,” he has repeated on more than one occasion. The controversy surrounding Zaldívar, a progressive magistrate aligned with Morena’s agenda, is part of a broader front: the control of the Council of the Judiciary and the approval of the constitutional reform of the Judiciary, led by the president of the Supreme Court himself. with the support of the Morenoite majority in parliament and which has encountered resistance within the judiciary itself.
Zaldívar’s term expires next year. López Obrador’s declared objective is for the magistrate to continue at the helm of the highest court until 2024, the year at the end of the six-year term, as a measure to ensure the underpinning of the reform. The criticisms are focused on denouncing that there is an interference of the legislative power, where Morena has a majority, in the field of the judiciary. The Constitution expressly establishes that the maximum term for the President of the Court is four years, with no possibility of reelection for the immediately subsequent term.
The measure sneaked into the Senate by surprise and at the last minute. After a session destined precisely to approve the regulatory laws for the reform of the Judicial Power, the senator of the Green Party Raúl Bolaños presented a reservation at the end of a discussion of more than five hours that ended up being approved, without debate, by 85 votes in favor. , 24 against and two abstentions. The opposition came to denounce that a “coup d’état against the judicial apparatus” had been carried out.
The decision has yet to go through the plenary session of Congress, where Morena also has a majority, but is rushing its last sessions before the close prior to the June elections, which will be renewed by both chambers. Jurists and international organizations have warned of the legal outrage and the risks to judicial independence. “By extending the mandate to the president of the Supreme Court, López Obrador ensures a majority of four of the seven members of the Council of the Judiciary. With four votes, he can make some momentous decisions, such as approving the forced removal of judges, ”said José Miguel Vivanco, director for the Americas of Human Rights Watch (HRW) this weekend.
Zaldívar is the first president of the court since 1994 who does not belong to the judicial career. This lawyer with a progressive profile reached the top of the judiciary days after Andrés Manuel López Obrador began his term promising an end to excesses and corruption in politics. A flag of regeneration that has also moved within its own ranks. In his two years in office, he has promoted measures to end nepotism, has disqualified or dismissed dozens of judges for corruption, and has launched a program that monitors the assets of judges and magistrates. And, above all, it is leading the constitutional reform of the Judiciary, in line with the agenda and the government’s accountability standards.
Zaldívar’s career also has solid bridges built with the López Obrador Executive. Olga Sánchez Cordero, Secretary of the Interior (Interior), was an ally in their years as ministers. He was also the favorite candidate of the legal adviser to the presidency, Julio Scherer.
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