Friday, May 24, 2024

Protests Break Out In Mexico Due to President Lopez Obrador’s Overhaul of the National Electoral Institute

Huge crowds of people gathered in Mexico City to condemn government moves to shrink electoral authority as a threat to democracy. It has appeared to be the largest protest so far against President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s administration.

Mexico’s Congress approved a major overhaul of the National Electoral Institute (INE), an independent body that Lopez Obrador has attacked as corrupt and inefficient. The 69-year-old president denies his changes will weaken Mexican Democracy.

Veronica Echevarria, a 58-year-old psychologist from Mexico City at the protest, said she feared Lopez Obrador’s INE shake-up was a bid by the president to stay in power. He denies this.

“We’re fighting to defend our democracy,” Echevarria said, wearing a cap emblazoned with the words “Hands off the INE.”

She and thousands of others converged on the Zocalo square, holding Mexican flags and dressed pink, the INE’s color. Shouts of “Viva Mexico!” and “Lopez out!” rang out periodically as the mass of people advanced.

The INE and its predecessor played a key role in creating a pluralistic democracy that in 2000 ended decades of one-party rule.

Fernando Belaunzaran, an opposition politician who helped to organize the protests, argued the INE changes weakened the electoral system and increased the risk of disputes clouding the 2024 elections when Lopez Obrador’s successor will be chosen.

“Normally presidents try to have governability and stability for their succession, but the president is creating uncertainty,” said Belaunzaran. “He’s playing with fire.”

Belaunzaran said on Twitter over 500,000 people had gathered in the capital on Sunday to oppose the INE overhaul. He said demonstrations were taking place in more than 100 cities, including Jalisco, Yucatan, Nuevo Leon, Queretaro, Guanajuato, and Veracruz, according to news reports and footage broadcast on social media.

Lopez Obrador, a leftist who claims he was robbed of the presidency twice before he finally won in the 2018 election, argues the INE is too expensive and biased in favor of his opponents. The institute denies this.

The president has cast these protests as a partisan attempt by the opposition to discredit his government.

According to the INE, the president’s overhaul violates the constitution, curbs its independence, and eliminates thousands of jobs made to safeguard the electoral process, making it harder to hold fair and free elections.

Lopez Obrador has also weakened other autonomous bodies that check his power on the grounds they are a drain on the public purse and hostile to his political project. He says his INE shake-up will save $150 million a year.

Polls show the president’s National Regeneration Movement (MORENA), which has become the dominant force in Mexico in just a few years, is a strong favorite to win the 2024 election.

NBC News