The owner and president of a steel company who was detained in Spain last year on corruption charges is suing President López Obrador for defaming him at his morning news conferences.
Raymundo Riva Palacio, a columnist at the newspaper El Financiero, said that Alonso Ancira, president of Altos Hornos de México (AHMSA), filed a complaint against the president in a Mexico City administrative court on Wednesday.
According to Riva, Ancira claims that López Obrador has violated 10 articles of the constitution and one of the American Convention on Human Rights by making unfounded accusations against him at his weekday pressers.
In his complaint, the AHMSA chief, who has previously claimed that Mexico is a country without laws, said the president’s remarks against him amount to a “continuous public lynching” and that López Obrador has also made declarations designed to intimidate judges.
“The power held by the president … has a reach of enormous magnitude and the declarations he has made imply a threat to national judges,” the complaint said.
The likelihood that the principle of judicial independence will be upheld is “seriously diminished” by the president’s statements, it added.
Riva wrote in a column published Friday that the complaint filed by Ancira, who was detained in Spain in May 2019 in connection with the 2015 sale of a fertilizer plant to Pemex, refers to remarks López Obrador made after the chief of Mexico’s largest steelmaker obtained a ruling against a warrant for his arrest that had been sought by the federal Attorney General’s Office.
Ancira obtained the favorable decision on August 13 from a Chiapas court that ruled that the charge against him – that he conducted operations with resources of illicit origin – had expired, the El Financiero columnist said.
After the ruling was handed down, López Obrador began making remarks that Ancira considers slanderous.
The president declared that the AHMSA chief is guilty of the charges of which he is accused — his case is linked to that against former Pemex CEO Emilio Lozoya – and suggested that he obtained the ruling from the Chiapas court in an “irregular way.”
According to Ancira’s complaint, López Obrador made a series of remarks between August 20 and September 4 that implied he was guilty even though he hasn’t been put before a court.
His public statements violate due process and the presumption of innocence and hinder Ancira’s ability to access to “impartial justice,” according to the complaint against the president. López Obrador’s remarks are “clearly detrimental” to the AHMSA chief’s human rights, it said.
The complaint also asks a judge to respond to 17 different questions related to the legal problems Ancira faces.
Among them: what kind of actions can violate the principle of judicial independence? Can a statement by the president that ‘all judges who rule in Ancira’s favor will be investigated’ be considered external pressure on the judiciary? What is the limit to the president’s freedom of expression? What is the reach of the principle of the separation of powers?
Riva wrote in his column that the complaint filed against López Obrador transcends Ancira’s case because it seeks answers to questions that will determine whether verbal attacks and accusations the president has made against dozens of people, groups and institutions were legal.
He wrote that López Obrador uses his morning press conferences, colloquially referred to as mañaneras in Spanish, for propagandistic purposes and to divert attention from “burning issues.”
“In his responses [to reporters’ questions] he tends to make accusations without proof [and] to lie about or defame individuals, groups, companies and institutions,” Riva said.
On Friday, the president took aim at the Reforma newspaper, one of his favorite targets, accusing it of being unethical because it published a story about corruption that hasn’t been proven.
It remains to be seen what will come of the complaint filed by Ancira, who remains in Spain although his extradition to Mexico was approved in May.
But it seems improbable that López Obrador will be hauled before a court and even less likely that he would be found guilty of slander.
The president is not the only member of the federal government who has been accused of making out-of-place remarks against people facing criminal charges.
Attorney General Alejandro Gertz Manero said in January that there are elements within the federal government that don’t respect the presumption of innocence.
The attorney general declined to name the people to which he was referring but added that “we all know” who they are.
One of the people Gertz Manero is believed to have been referring to is Santiago Nieto, head of the government’s Financial Intelligence Unit.
Speaking at López Obrador’s mañaneras, Nieto has revealed details of cases against high-profile figures including Lozoya (the former state oil company chief), ex-cabinet secretary Rosario Robles and Pemex workers’ union leader Carlos Romero Deschamps.
During his lengthy morning pressers, the president himself has leveled accusations at past presidents including Felipe Calderón, who defeated him at the 2006 election.
López Obrador said last month that Mexico was a narco-state during the Calderón administration given the given the evidence that has been coming out against his security minister Genaro García Luna, who is awaiting trial in the United States on charges he took bribes from and colluded with the Sinaloa Cartel.
But despite frequently railing against his predecessors, the president says that he doesn’t support prosecuting them because he favors looking to the future rather than dwelling on the past.
Nevertheless, he supports the plan to hold a referendum to ask the public whether past presidents should face justice and has pledged that they will be held to account if that is the majority’s wish.
Source: El Financiero (sp)