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From left, ex-presidents Carlos Salinas, Felipe Calderón, Enrique Peña Nieto and current President López Obrador. From left, ex-presidents Carlos Salinas, Felipe Calderón, Enrique Peña Nieto and current President López Obrador.

Almost 90% want past presidents to be investigated—along with López Obrador

As the August referendum approaches, more than 70% think López Obrador should also face investigation

Almost nine in 10 Mexicans want former presidents to be investigated for crimes they may have committed while in office, while more than seven in 10 believe President López Obrador should also face a criminal probe, a new poll indicates.

Nine days before Mexicans will have the opportunity to participate in an August 1 national referendum over whether the country’s five most recent ex-presidents and other former officials should be investigated for corruption, the newspaper El Universal published results of a survey of 1,000 citizens.

More than six in 10 said that participating in the referendum – which López Obrador proposed – was either very important (43.4%) or somewhat important (21.6%) to them, while about one-third said it was of little importance (13.5%) or no importance at all (20.9%).

Among the 1,000 respondents, 89.2% said they want former presidents to be investigated and brought to trial. The percentages were remarkably similar for each of the past five presidents.

Almost 91% of respondents said that Carlos Salinas de Gortari (1988-94), widely considered one of Mexico’s most corrupt presidents, should be investigated and tried. A slightly lower 89.8% said the same about Enrique Peña Nieto (2012-18), whose administration was plagued with corruption scandals including the Master Fraud embezzlement scheme that Peña allegedly knew about but did nothing to stop it.

The percentage for Felipe Calderón (2006-12) was 89.2%, while 88% of respondents said that Vicente Fox (2000-06) should be investigated and 87% said the same about Ernesto Zedillo (1994-2000).

A considerably lower but still significant 72.4% of respondents believe that López Obrador should be investigated as well. AMLO, as the president is commonly known, and sitting lawmakers no longer have immunity from prosecution, known as the fuero, after the Congress eliminated the protection in 2019.

Former presidents and other ex-officials don’t have immunity either, meaning they can be investigated and prosecuted like any other private citizen. In that context, Calderón has characterized the upcoming referendum as a pointless exercise.

“If he [López Obrador] has well-founded proof against me, he should go to the attorney general today and present it without the need for a consultation. But if he doesn’t have proof or specific accusations, … he should stop harassing me and respect my rights like any other citizen,” he said late last year.

Very high percentages of poll respondents also said that governors and ex-governors, senators, deputies, mayors and judges should be investigated for crimes they may have committed.

Asked whether holding a 528-million-peso (US $26.4 million) referendum is necessary given that past presidents and officials are not protected by the fuero, 59% of respondents said it isn’t while 38.5% said it is.

Asked whether they understood the convoluted referendum 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? – 70.9% of respondents said they did while 28.6% said they did not.

The number who said they did understand was down 9.6% compared to an El Universal poll conducted last October.

The referendum will have binding force if 40% of eligible voters participate and a majority supports it. But whether the 40% threshold will be achieved is unclear as opposition parties are boycotting the vote.

López Obrador has also indicated that he won’t vote, claiming that he prefers to look forward rather than dwell on the past – even though he frequently rails against his predecessors in his lengthy morning press conferences.

With reports from El Universal 

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