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AMLO’s (Andrés Manuel López Obrador) consultation called in Mexico for next Sunday, August 1st is the perfect incarnation of the worst vices of his Government: a useless, capricious, costly and demagogic exercise, designed to manipulate society, presenting an image of a fight against corruption that is not supported by facts.
What is AMLO’s consultation about?
Less than a decade ago, Mexican legislation integrated the figure of the “popular consultation” as a space to strengthen citizen participation, which when used correctly is a valid mechanism for decision making. The problem is that López Obrador has corrupted it, turning it into a mechanism for rhetorical manipulation and political revenge against his predecessors, under the assumption that, if the people so decide, the former presidents will be tried for their alleged crimes.
However, as anyone with a minimum of common sense understands, the trials cannot be derived from a popular consultation. They are not the result of elections or polls, but of a legal process subject to statutes of limitations, the presentation of evidence and the determination of responsibilities based on technical criteria, not on the popularity or unpopularity of the person in office.
Since a “trial by consultation” is offensively absurd, it would have been logical for the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation to reject the petition to carry out such public consultation. However, López Obrador has turned his word into law so, for fear of contradicting him and making him angry, the Supreme Court opted to maintain the consultation, but to modify the question, which they turned into an essentially incomprehensible string of questions, well compared by The Economist to the style of Cantinflas.
This is the question: “Are you in agreement or not that appropriate actions in accordance with the constitutional and legal framework be carried out in order to undertake actions of clarification of political decisions taken in the past by political actors, aimed at guaranteeing justice and the rights of the possible victims?”.
That is to say, with the way the question was worded, it does not even refer to the former presidents, but to the “political actors” and it does not refer to government decisions either, but to “political decisions”, in such a diffuse, confused and obtuse approach that the answer became irrelevant.
Even if the consultation exceeds 40% participation and therefore its results were “binding”, there is nothing to bind, there is no concrete effect that necessarily derives from the consultation. Technically it is a waste of time and a waste of (at least) 528 million pesos to be spent on it by the National Electoral Institute.
In spite of this, the President and the entire pro-government ecosystem have dedicated the last few weeks to intensely promote the participation of their supporters in this consultation, which they continue to present (in a frank and open lie) as a mechanism to “judge the former presidents.”
AMLO’s three political objectives
As we have explained on several occasions, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador is not interested in the technical, but in the political. He decided to promote the consultation and dedicate a gigantic amount of money to it in order to achieve at least 3 political objectives:
First. To deceive his followers, making them believe that he is fighting against corruption. López Obrador swept the 2018 presidential elections riding on a narrative of “punishing the corrupt of the old regime”. However, almost halfway through his administration, AMLO continues to fail to achieve concrete results in the fight against corruption, and his supporters are beginning to notice.
That is why he intends to use the popular consultation as a way to show that he is doing something concrete against the corrupt former presidents, besides giving his supporters a direct and ritual way to “join” as protagonists of this supposed fight.
Second. In order to train its structure of vote mobilization and to know which are its most effective operators for the next elections. The popular consultation will allow the ruling party to apply the lessons learned by its electoral mobilization structure during the past mid-term elections, besides testing the mobilization capacity of its local and regional operators. Those who manage to get more people out to vote in a meaningless exercise will demonstrate that they have leadership and deserve López Obrador’s trust.
Let’s say that they will be able to separate the weeds of the operators who only promise from the wheat of the operators with true leadership and mobilization capacity in the communities and neighborhoods, something very important to win the elections between now and 2024.
Third. To intimidate the opposition. The consultation will allow President López Obrador to reaffirm that in Mexico his whim is law and will remind the opposition that, if AMLO wants, he can push for judicial processes to put at risk the patrimony and even the physical freedom of whoever gets in the way of his plans.
AMLO’s consultation is a mockery to the people of Mexico. It is a useless, capricious, costly and demagogic exercise, designed as part of a regime where politics is the only thing that matters, while everything and everyone else is irrelevant.
Gerardo Garibay Camarena, is a doctor of law, writer and political analyst with experience in the public and private sectors. His new book is "How to Play Chess Without Craps: A Guide to Reading Politics and Understanding Politicians" // Gerardo Garibay Camarena es doctor en derecho, escritor y analista político con experiencia en el sector público y privado. Su nuevo libro es “Cómo jugar al ajedrez Sin dados: Una guía para leer la política y entender a los políticos”