A referendum on whether five past presidents should be investigated for corruption will cost approximately 520 million pesos (US $25.7 million), according to the National Electoral Institute (INE).
A vote will be held on August 1 at which citizens will be indirectly asked whether they support the investigation of Carlos Salinas, Ernesto Zedillo, Vicente Fox, Felipe Calderón and Enrique Peña Nieto for possible acts of corruption while they were in office between 1988 and 2018.
The Supreme Court granted approval for the referendum last October, and the Congress subsequently backed the proposal put forward by President López Obrador. The Supreme Court also drew up the question that will appear on ballot papers.
“Do you agree or not that pertinent actions be carried out, in accordance with the constitutional and legal framework, to undertake a process of clarification of political decisions taken in past years by political actors aimed at guaranteeing justice and the rights of possible victims?”
Electoral councilor José Roberto Ruiz Saldeña said the consultation’s cost will be covered by savings generated by the INE. “… It could vary slightly, up or down,” he said, explaining that the cost has not yet been definitively determined.
The INE asked the Chamber of Deputies for almost 1.5 billion pesos (US $74.2 million) to hold the referendum, but the lower house of Congress refused to approve such a large figure. The electoral authority had planned to set up some 104,000 voting tables, but due to a lack of resources, it will only install about 57,000, Ruiz said.
“All the material left over from the June 6 elections [that] can be reused, such as permanent ink [for marking voters’ thumbs] and pencils, will be distributed to the [voting] tables,” the INE councilor said.
López Obrador frequently rails against his predecessors, accusing them of corruption and all other manner of wrongdoing, but he has indicated that he doesn’t support prosecuting past presidents because he prefers looking to the future rather than dwelling on the past. However, he has remained adamant that citizens must be given the opportunity to have their say on the issue.
A poll published last August found that an overwhelming majority of Mexicans believe that former presidents and other ex-officials who committed crimes while in office should face justice.
Responding to a remark from Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum that the August 1 vote will be the “most democratic exercise in the history of the country,” Fox — who was president from 2000 to 2006 — disagreed. He tweeted on Wednesday that the referendum will actually be “the biggest nonsense in the world.”
Calderón, Fox’s successor, said last year that if López Obrador has proof that he committed corruption, he should take it to the federal Attorney General’s Office instead of holding a referendum.
“… If he doesn’t have proof or specific accusations, … he should stop harassing me and respect my rights like any other citizen,” he said.
On Tuesday, he retweeted a post by former chief electoral regulator Luis Carlos Ugalde.
“… Instead of throwing away 505 million pesos, … we should demand that the government present complaints when there is evidence of corruption. The August 1 consultation is a farce,” the tweet read.
With reports from El Universal