President López Obrador has labeled four United States senators liars after they accused him of using the federal Attorney General’s Office (FGR) to target government critics.
Four Democratic Party senators including Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Bob Menéndez wrote to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Attorney General Merrick Garland to express concerns that López Obrador’s government and the FGR are “politicizing the Mexican justice system and jeopardizing the independence of democratic institutions.”
“President López Obrador’s tenure has been marked by an increasing pattern of seemingly selective prosecutions disproportionately targeting government critics,” said the April 5 letter signed by Menéndez, Patrick Leahy, Benjamin Cardin and Jeffrey Merkley.
“These investigations have been pursued by the FGR – an institution that is constitutionally autonomous from the executive branch, but which has in practice aligned with President López Obrador – with the apparent aim of discrediting and silencing political opponents, as well as pursuing personal vendettas,” the letter said.
The senators cited three cases to support their claim. They said that leaked recordings of a call between Attorney General Alejandro Gertz Manero and another FGR official “raise questions about whether Gertz Manero improperly used FGR resources.”
“They also raise questions about improper dealings between Gertz Manero and members of Mexico’s Supreme Court in a case in which the national prosecutor accuses his in-laws of failing to provide proper care to his brother, who died in 2015 at the age of 82,” the letter said. “Despite this, President López Obrador continues to defend Gertz Manero.”
The senators also cited a 2021 case in which “Gertz Manero attempted to arrest and prosecute 31 scientists on money laundering and embezzlement charges.”
They noted that the scientists belonged to an advisory forum that has been critical of the federal government.
The lawmakers also observed that in August 2021 the FGR pressed corruption charges against Ricardo Anaya, a 2018 presidential candidate and outspoken critic of López Obrador. The charges are related to a bribery case involving Brazilian construction company Odebrecht and Mexican lawmakers in Congress during former president Enrique Peña Nieto’s 2012-18 presidency.
“According to press reports, ‘political analysts and legal scholars, including two allies of Mr. López Obrador currently serving in official legal capacities, say the case against Mr. Anaya is riddled with inconsistencies,’” the senators’ letter said.
“Cases such as these stand in stark contrast to instances in which President López Obrador’s government and the FGR have failed to seriously investigate or prosecute potential corruption among individuals linked to the president,” the Democrats said, citing cases involving his personal secretary and brother.
“The selective prosecutions also contrast markedly with the FGR’s decision to close the investigation against former defense minister Salvador Cienfuegos in January 2021, following Cienfuegos’ arrest in the United States … on charges of collusion with narcotics traffickers,” the letter said.
“In light of this pattern of apparent selective and politically motivated prosecutions, efforts by President López Obrador and his allies to target and weaken the independence of Mexico’s judicial system raise significant concerns,” the senators said, citing the president’s attack on a judge who ruled against an energy proposal, his attempt to extend the term of the chief justice of the Supreme Court in apparent violation of the constitution and his call for members of the Mexico’s top electoral court to resign.
“As José Miguel Vivanco, former executive director of Human Rights Watch’s Americas Division has noted, these actions demonstrate a disregard for judicial independence and are a ‘direct assault on the rule of law,’” the letter said.
“We urge you to give serious consideration to the risk of a weakened, politicized, justice system in Mexico, and to raise and prioritize these concerns in discussions with your Mexican counterparts,” the senators told Blinken and Garland.
“The United States government must explicitly communicate its continued support for Mexico’s independent institutions, as well as its firm belief that President López Obrador’s efforts to advance legitimate accountability initiatives must strengthen, not dismantle, democratic institutions and the rule of law.”
López Obrador rejected the senators’ claims at his news conference on Thursday, asserting that it was untrue that he has used the FGR for political purposes.
“With all respect, they’re liars, … perhaps they’re misinformed,” he said, adding that the senators were motivated by upcoming midterm elections in the United States.
“It’s a good thing there are only four of them because four swallows don’t make a summer,” the president quipped.
“What am I going to say back to them? Nothing,” he said before launching into a response later in his morning press conference.
“… I don’t have any connection to Attorney General Gertz Manero other than [my] respect [for him]. It’s no longer the time in which the president gave instructions to the judicial power, to the Supreme Court, the Attorney General’s Office, no,” López Obrador said.
“There is now an authentic rule of law, there’s not a crooked state. … [The senators] are lying, they are, the least I can say, uninformed,” he said.
“… Perhaps these senators don’t know me or perhaps they’re used to something else [in Mexico], but [the situation] has already changed. Hopefully they’ll inform themselves and if they have proof present it, but generally they’re complaints without foundation. It’s due to the [electoral] season and because the conservatives of Mexico are now accusing us [from] abroad, they go there to accuse us,” López Obrador said.
“… If … [the senators] have no foundation and it’s just a campaign against us, Mexicans and Mexican-Americans won’t like that, and if they’re looking for votes it won’t help them. I shouldn’t even be giving them advice, but there are 40 million Mexicans in the United States,” he said.
“… They’re wrong, misinformed. … Furthermore, … we don’t accept [foreign] interference,” López Obrador added.“… Mexico is a free, independent and sovereign country.”
Mexico News Daily