Mexico’s lower house of Congress unanimously approved changes to the constitution yesterday to eliminate immunity from prosecution for all public servants, including the president.
Lawmakers modified and repealed provisions of eight articles of the constitution, abolishing the legal protection measure known as the fuero and ensuring that officials from the president down will be treated under the law the same way as any other citizen.
Currently, a sitting president can only be put on trial for treason or other serious common order crimes.
The historic resolution, aimed at combating entrenched political corruption, was passed on to the Senate where it will be subjected to more debate and another vote. A majority of state congresses must also ratify the constitutional changes before the reform can be made law.
The resolution also eliminates the requirement for the Chamber of Deputies to formally approve a criminal case against a lawmaker or public official in order for it to proceed in the legal system, a process known as desafuero.
In addition, it establishes that defamation, libel and slander cannot be punishable with imprisonment.
Braulio Mario Guerra Urbiola, a deputy for the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), said the PRI is fully supportive of all ideas that enable Mexico to develop as a nation and described the elimination of the fuero as one of the most important.
National Action Party (PAN) Deputy José Hernán Cortés Berúmen said abolishment of the fuero will be the signature reform of the current legislature and urged the Senate and state legislatures to pass it.
The presidential candidates also expressed their support for the landmark decision.
Ruling party candidate José Antonio Meade, who has claimed authorship of the reform and campaigned on the slogan “I will be the first president without the fuero,” congratulated the lower house and urged lawmakers to complete the legislative process.
“. . . I recognize the work of the deputies and thank the legislators who proposed this initiative in my name . . . I’m sure that we will achieve our desire to get to the presidency and do it without any privilege different to that which all Mexicans have . . .” he said.
Leading candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who has made fighting corruption central to his campaign, also praised the reform.
“It’s very good, there shouldn’t be privileges and if they don’t eliminate it, we will,” he told reporters.
Ricardo Anaya of the right-left coalition “For Mexico in Front” congratulated lawmakers and also appeared to take credit for the resolution. But he also wrote on his Twitter account that more must be done to ensure that the reform achieves its purpose.
“. . . We have moved to eliminate the fuero. Now we’re going for a prosecutor’s office that works so that the corrupt go to jail and give back what they stole,” he said.
Independent candidates Margarita Zavala and Jaime Rodríguez also expressed their support for the lower house’s approval of the reform.
The move to abolish the fuero follows a precedent set by several Mexican states including Jalisco, Nuevo León, Baja California and Yucatán and comes in the lead-up to the July 1 presidential election, as candidates attempt to promote their anti-corruption credentials.