Politics: Rule of law in further jeopardy

MEXICO - Report 22 Mar 2021 by Guillermo Valdes and Francisco González

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s Electricity Industry Law (LIE), recently approved by Congress, has been temporarily suspended. The new legislation, backed by Morena and its allies and rejected by the opposition, reverses the previous administration’s energy policies, which were based on an opening to domestic and international private participation. Attacks on these policies were a cornerstone of AMLO’s discourse and political project. AMLO and his allies have criticized ex-President Enrique Peña Nieto’s energy reform as a violation of national sovereignty and a neo-liberal concession to big business at the expense of popular interests.

The LIE was immediately challenged in the courts. The day after its approval Judge Juan Pablo Gomez Fierro decreed a provisional suspension. A whopping additional 34 provisional suspensions were later granted. With motions filed to declare the law unconstitutional, government appeals could take up to a year.

These legal challenges center on the LIE’s content, with critics charging it violates constitutional provisions on free competition and Mexico’s trade treaties with the United States and Canada, while damaging the environment. They also come in the wake of a series of laws introduced by AMLO and approved by Congress that critics claim are unconstitutional and/or represent an abuse of power by a president who is seeking to illegally impose his authority and has little use for the rule of law. AMLO’s attacks on the judges in the LIE dispute have been strongly rejected by the country’s professional lawyers’ associations.

The other laws being challenged include legislation on salaries of top government officials, asset seizures, the creation of the National Guard, a ban on the private sector's hiring officials until they have been out of government for 10 years, and others. Legal disputes are also pending against the cancellation of the previous administration’s new Mexico City airport and AMLO’s Santa Lucia airport, rail, and refinery projects.

The LIE challenges may well end up in the Supreme Court. If AMLO designates a supporter in December to replace a retiring justice, it may eliminate a major and perhaps final obstacle to implementation of the president’s policies.

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