President López Obrador delivered a scathing attack on five past presidents yesterday and Wednesday, accusing them of “pillage” during the “neoliberal period” of the past 30 years.
He also said that the Mexican people could be asked in a public consultation if they want Carlos Salinas, Ernesto Zedillo, Vicente Fox, Felipe Calderón and Enrique Peña Nieto to be put on trial for their alleged crimes.
Speaking at his morning press conference yesterday, López Obrador said that the corruption and looting started during the 1988-1994 government led by Salinas, who he dubbed “the father of modern inequality.”
“We’re cleaning the government of corruption because the entire neoliberal period was characterized by pillage, not just the previous administration. This started in the government of Salinas,” he said.
“To speak clearly, the problems we are suffering from now originated then – when the assets of the people, of the nation, were handed over. When the policy of privatization was started is when inequalities in Mexico deepened and I can prove it, with information from the World Bank, I have the proof,” López Obrador said.
The president said that at the start of Salinas’ administration, only one Mexican appeared on Forbes’ billionaires list but at the end of his six-year term “24 appeared on the list of the world’s richest men.”
The 24 billionaires shared wealth of US $48 billion, López Obrador said, claiming “that was the size of the transfer of resources, the delivery of national assets to private citizens.”
Zedillo, who continued the rule of the Institutional Revolutionary Party between 1994 and 2000, perpetuated Salinas’ privatization push by selling off Mexico’s state-owned railway company and systems, the president said.
Zedillo also misused Fobaproa – a contingencies fund –turning debt owed by banks into public debt and costing the country a billion pesos in interest payments, López Obrador charged.
The leftist then turned his attention to Fox, who governed Mexico for the National Action Party (PAN) between 2000 and 2006, saying that the “preponderance of corruption and waste” during his presidency was “notorious.”
López Obrador also took aim at the ex-president for awarding favorable mining concessions and on Wednesday accused him of masterminding fraud in the 2006 presidential election that he lost narrowly to Calderón.
“We want to try Fox for being a traitor of democracy. Because after he reached [the presidency] through a movement to establish democracy, he headed an electoral fraud operation to impose Felipe Calderón,” he said.
Once in power, Calderón “acted with indolent irresponsibility,” López Obrador charged, because he started the so-called war on drugs by deploying the military to combat cartels without first carrying out a proper analysis of the security situation.
“He stirred up the hornet’s nest,” the president remarked, explaining that Calderón’s strategy unleashed a wave of violence and disappearances.
Peña Nieto “did the same,” López Obrador continued, referring to the previous government’s perpetuation of the militarized crime fighting strategy.
He added: “There was corruption with Peña but it came from before, that’s why a cleansing is taking place, it’s going to take time, not a lot but there are people [in positions] above who are not going to be in our government.”
The president defended his attack by saying that “I have to provide the background because sometimes there is amnesia and the conservatives tend to be very biased.”
Past governments left “a garbage dump, a mess,” López Obrador declared.
On Wednesday, the president explained that he has asked Congress to make changes to Article 35 of the constitution in order to make public consultations legally valid after which “the people will decide” if the five past presidents should be pursued legally for their alleged wrongdoings.
As he has said before, López Obrador indicated that his personal preference was to let bygones be bygones but stressed that the people will have the “final word” on the matter.
In his typical outspoken and colorful fashion, Vicente Fox fired back at López Obrador, declaring on Twitter that he too will face legal judgement for his actions.
“You’re also going on trial,” Fox wrote, listing a range of crimes López Obrador could be tried for including the deaths of 175 people who were “burned alive,” ruining Pemex and environmental damage resulting from his proposals to build the Maya Train on the Yucatán peninsula and a new oil refinery on the Tabasco coast.
Calderón also took to Twitter to respond to López Obrador.
“Accusing without proof violates the constitution because it breaks the presumption of innocence . . . Doing it from the power of the presidency and without even mentioning a specific crime is abusive, dishonest and immoral,” he wrote.
López Obrador has also accused the former PAN president of being complicit with fuel theft and corruption because in 2016 he accepted a position on the board of an energy company that was awarded contracts during his presidency.
The Morena party leader has made combating corruption the raison d’etre of his government and vowed not to take a backward step in his crusade against it.
At a January press conference, the president said that his predecessors were either accomplices to corruption or they turned a blind eye — “there’s no way [they] didn’t know.”
“. . . All the juicy business done in the country, deals of corruption, were greenlighted by the president.”