The separation of powers is the foundation of the democratic system. Interferences of any kind with this principle affect the stability of a country and have long-term negative consequences. The efforts of Andrés Manuel López Obrador to extend the mandate of the president of the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation, Arturo Zaldívar, for two years so that it remains until the end of his term and can fulfill his political agenda represents a bankruptcy in rule of this basic balance and a mockery of democratic coexistence.
Respecting the perimeters assigned by the Constitution to each power should be the first obligation of a head of state. But it has not been the case. The reform approved this past Friday, whose key article emerged by surprise and from the hand of a satellite party, has paraded through Congress as a show of force by the presidential infantry. The president and the person in charge of the highest judicial instance have not cared little about the scandalous image of collusion that it offers or, even more serious, that the extension of the mandate is in flagrant contradiction with the same constitutional text, which specifically establishes a non-extendable period four years old, compared to the six that Zaldívar will now enjoy.
None of this has prevented the imposition of a legislative change whose main objective is to implement López Obrador’s political project on the judicial side. He himself has admitted it shamelessly when he publicly pointed out that he needs the reform because “he is not going to have another opportunity like this” and because “whoever arrives later will be more of the same.” A few words that reveal in all its crudeness the instrumental and ancillary concept of the Judicial Power that the president has and that has led him in recent years, under the argument of the fight against corruption, to develop an underground purge to achieve his submission.
It is not something new on the Mexican horizon. The presidential narrative tends to elevate his political agenda to the rank of a transcendental historical project to which everyone, including independent media or guarantor judges, must submit if they do not want to be beaten by the head of state himself. A practice far removed from the uses of democratic normality, which are based on the assumption that, no matter how laudable its objectives, no policy is perfect and that there are always other voices that have something to contribute. This acceptance of one’s own fallibility (and its overcoming through dialogue) is one of the best spells against the authoritarian tendencies that cyclically plague Latin American democracies.
Nor does Zaldívar get better off. First president of the Supreme Court, who has not come from the judicial career since 1994, has managed to muddy his career as a progressive minister in a few days. His complacent silence during the processing of this point of the reform, whose genesis he claimed he did not know despite being the main beneficiary, and his palatial response after parliamentary approval have placed him where his critics said he was from the beginning: at the feet of the president .
Zaldívar, who also chairs the National Council of the Judiciary, the governing body of judges, should reflect on whether it is worth it for him to stay those two more years in power under the permanent suspicion that he is a mere presidential appendage. Or if your task, rather, ends where it started: being a servant of justice and the separation of powers. Trampling the constitutional text and poisoning confidence in the Supreme Court and its sentences are too high prices to pay. The Judiciary does not deserve it and, of course, neither does Mexico.
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.