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Mexico: democracy under attack. By Rafael Hernández Estrada

As in other countries, in Mexico democracy is suffering the attack of a populist governmental project. The coming to power of Andrés Manuel López Obrador, in 2018, was possible because of a system of electoral democracy that guaranteed the legal and legitimate processing of his triumph. But, once installed in the National Palace, he has undermined and attacked that system to suppress it and establish the monopoly of the political party he heads.

It should be remembered that, for decades, Mexico was governed by a hegemonic party regime. It was the perfect dictatorship, in the words of the Peruvian writer and Nobel Literature Prize winner Mario Vargas Llosa, a resident of the Aztec lands for many years: unlike the sequel of coups d’état and military coups that determined the history of many Latin American countries during the 20th century, an authoritarian hegemony was imposed, renewed every six years through sham elections, in which the official party always won. The latter had a monopoly on Congress, all levels of government and the Judiciary, while the opposition was selectively repressed and kept out of government and representative positions.

One of the bases of the authoritarian system was the control that the government exercised over elections. At its convenience, it integrated the voters’ lists, set up the polling stations, designated unconditional supporters to receive the votes, dominated the counting, automatically dismissed all challenges and validated the triumph, which almost always favored the candidates of its party.

After great sacrifices and many civil mobilizations, the political forces agreed on a democratic transition that gradually advanced to establish a competitive electoral system, whose centerpiece is the National Electoral Institute. This is an autonomous constitutional body in charge of organizing the elections in an impartial and professional manner. Together with the creation of the electoral jurisdiction for the legal resolution of controversies (previously non-existent), the INE allowed the alternation of parties in the Presidency of the Republic, governorships and municipal governments, which since the second decade of the present century has been achieved without post-electoral conflicts.

AMLO’s government intends to destroy the INE and roll back political pluralism. Arbitrary cuts to INE’s budget, smear campaigns against electoral authorities, attempts of co-optation and penetration were not enough. He sought its suppression through a constitutional reform and, when he did not reach the necessary majority in Congress, he proposed a “plan b” of reforms to the secondary laws to continue his destructive intention. The approval of this plan is foreseen for the month of February. If approved, it would constitute a lethal blow to Mexican democracy.

During the last months of 2022, international organizations such as the Venice Convention, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and Human Rights Watch, expressed their concern for the anti-democratic attempt. Mexican citizens have responded with large protest demonstrations (such as the one on November 13° and the one called for February 26°) and announced the filing of all kinds of legal appeals. We call on the international community to accompany these initiatives with pronouncements and solidarity in the face of this attack against democracy.