Democrats reprimand Mexico’s president for attacking judiciary

MIAMI (AP) – Democrats in Congress are raising the alarm over what they claim is Mexico’s chief prosecutor – a key partner of US law enforcement – attacking the country’s independent judiciary and President Andrés Manuel López Obrador Prosecutions are selectively targeting opponents. ,

In a harshly worded letter sent Wednesday to Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Attorney General Merrick Garland, Sen. Bob Menendez, the powerful chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and three aides, asked the Biden administration to raise its concerns directly with its Mexican it is said. equivalent.

“López Obrador’s tenure has been marked by a growing pattern of selective indictments disproportionately targeting government critics,” according to the letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press. “President López Obrador’s efforts to advance legitimate accountability initiatives must be strengthened, not dismantled democratic institutions and the rule of law.”

The letter, which is bound to provoke the anger of López Obrador and his associates, focuses on several suspicious actions and what they consider “personal vendetta” pursued by Attorney General Alejandro Gertz Manero.

The top prosecutor, a close ally of the left-wing president, first caught the attention of US officials when the Trump administration dropped criminal narcotics charges against former Defense Secretary Salvador Cienfuegos and returned him to Mexico on the promise of an at-home investigation.

But the investigation against Cienfuegos was quickly closed, and Gertz Manero later threatened to press charges of his own against US prosecutors accustomed to working hand-in-hand with Mexican law enforcement to dismantle the country’s powerful cartel.

“We urge you to seriously consider the risk of a weak, politicized justice system in Mexico,” according to the letter, whose signatories include Appropriations Committee Chairman, Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, and Senator Benjamin Cardin of Maryland and Jeffrey, Oregon. K Merkle.

López Obrador was elected in 2018 on a promise to clean up Mexico’s notoriously corrupt politics and prefers to defy his commitment to austerity by taking commercial flights. But critics call it a stunt to distract from the worrying accumulation of power, the failure to deliver on campaign promises and the repeated attacks on opponents that undermine the rule of law in America’s second-largest trading partner. Is.

This Sunday, his supporters are expected to give him another boost when they vote in a first-of-its-kind referendum on whether he should be allowed to serve his six-year term – something that will never last. Not in doubt and what many see as a sideshow.

Democrats fault López Obrador in their letter for publicly attacking a judge who ruled against his energy policies, pushing an unconstitutional plan to extend the term of sympathetic Supreme Court chief justice and Mexico. Called for the resignation of the top electoral court of

They also raise concerns about the criminal charges leveled against Ricardo Anaya, a major conservative rival of López Obrador.

Anaya, who finished second in the 2018 presidential election, was charged with money laundering last year in relation to an alleged bribe she took in exchange for her support on an energy reform bill. The allegations are based on testimony from the former head of Mexico’s state-run oil company, who claims he paid lawmakers, including Anaya $525,000, to vote for the overhaul on instructions from López Obrador’s predecessor.

Some have questioned the strength of the evidence, noting that the alleged bribes were paid months after the reform was approved, when Anaya had already stepped down. Anaya has since fled to Mexico and is living in the US

López Obrador has dismissed claims of settlement of scores in Anaya and other cases as “lies” and “lies”, which opponents have promoted to undermine his rule.

There was no immediate response from him or the attorney general’s office when the AP sent him a copy of the letter.

According to the letter, the Mexican prosecutor’s office, led by Gertz Manero, also failed to seriously investigate the president’s aides. These include charges of money laundering and finance law violations against the president’s brother, who was caught on video receiving cash from a campaign supporter. López Obrador has defended the contribution as legitimate.

Democrats also accused Gertz Manero of suppressing personal matters while in office.

These include trying to lock 31 scientists into a maximum security prison because they claim they improperly received about $2.5 million in government funding years ago. Laws of the time allowed such funding, and researchers say it was not wrong. Critics say Gertz is rolling back the charges for the researchers’ refusal to recognize Manero’s own academic credentials.

The attorney general can also be heard in a recently leaked recording of a conversation with a colleague cursing a Supreme Court justice. In the recording, Gertz Manero claims that the judge will ignore a demand that the top court convict a niece in prison for the death of her older brother, who died while in her care.

Gertz Manero admits to receiving an advance copy of a proposed Supreme Court opinion recommending releasing the relative – something that struck many as a potential conflict of interest.

But he claims that he got the court’s decision because he was acting in the case as a family member of the deceased and not as the Attorney General.

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AP writer Mark Stevenson in Mexico City contributed to this report.

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