The chief justice of the Supreme Court (SCJN) has called for harmony between the three branches of government amid a conflict over judicial salaries.
Presenting his fourth and final annual report yesterday, Luis María Aguilar Morales declared that “we want to work together for a better Mexico, resolving controversies according to the laws that the Congress draws up and according to the constitution in order to protect the rights of everyone.”
In an address before President López Obrador, lawmakers and other officials that was punctuated by a spell of dizziness that forced him to take a seat and pause for a few minutes, the 69-year-old Aguilar said the Supreme Court is guided by the legacy of former president Benito Juárez.
“Among the many areas of agreement, one of the most important we have with you [López Obrador] is . . . [Benito Juárez’s] maxim that governs the life of a constitutional democracy: nothing by force, all by reason and law,” he said.
Aguilar’s address came just three days after federal judges demonstrated publicly for the first time ever to accuse López Obrador of attempting to interfere in the judiciary and to reject his claim that they earn up to 600,000 pesos (US $29,500) a month.
As part of the new government’s austerity measures, lawmakers from the president’s leftist Morena party presented a bill that was approved by Congress last month that decreed that no public official should earn more than the president, who has set his monthly salary at 108,000 pesos – 60% less than the former president’s wage.
But the SCJN ruled last Friday that the Federal Public Servants Remuneration Law must be suspended, triggering criticism that judges are only concerned about protecting their own hip pockets.
But Aguilar said the court is committed to working for the benefit of all Mexicans.
“The federal judicial power is one of the three powers of the union and thus we recognize that we are part of the framework of the Mexican state and that we must be joined, in harmony and agreement, with the other powers, the executive and the legislative,” he said.
In spite of the underlying conflict between the executive and judiciary, Aguilar contended that the presence of López Obrador at the court’s presentation of its annual report and that of Supreme Court justices at the president’s December 1 inauguration were evidence of “democratic normality.”
He explained that under his four-year administration, 80% of cases heard by federal courts related to just three crimes: petroleum theft, drug trafficking and weapons possession.
Aguilar also said that federal courts had sanctioned 260 public officials – including 85 judges – declaring that “in the Federal Judiciary Council there is no place for tolerance of corruption or improper conduct.”
López Obrador, who on Tuesday said that “only Donald Trump earns more than the president of the Supreme Court,” extended his hand in assistance to Aguilar when he sat amid his episode of giddiness and applauded him when he recommenced his address.
At the end of the presentation, he shook hands with the chief justice and gave him a friendly slap on the back, belying the differences between the branch of government he heads and that led by Aguilar.
Earlier in the day, López Obrador left the National Palace on foot to walk to the Supreme Court only to be swamped by a horde of well-wishers.
The president’s small, unarmed security detail was overwhelmed, which allowed one woman to get close enough to plant two kisses on the president, the newspaper Milenio reported.
After Aguilar’s presentation, López Obrador walked back to the National Palace, with his small group of security “assistants” enlisting the support of street vendors in the area to help clear a path for the president amid another swarming mass.
“Don’t push him, you’ll give him a heart attack” and “I love you Grandpa” were among the comments called out by those present while some suggested that the president needed to rethink his approach to security.