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Luz Araceli González: Authoritarian drift threatens democracy

“The most disturbing thing about the new Mexican president is his contempt for the law as it exists and his willingness to manipulate it according to his convenience,” wrote the Spanish newspaper El País, in November 2018, referring to the recent electoral victory of the still president-elect, Andrés. Manuel Lopez Obrador.

What the Spanish newspaper posed as a possible scenario 5 years ago, throughout his tenure the Mexican president has demonstrated it with his continuous contempt for the Constitution and the laws that emanate from it and has emphasized that he is above any instrument legal including the Magna Carta.

This authoritarian drift is not an exclusive case of Mexico. It seems that the 21st century, after the democratic euphoria of the late 20th century, has opened the doors to an era of regimes that trample on the rule of law, it is enough to mention cases such as that of Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela, Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua, Vladimir Putin in Russia, Recep Erdogan in Turkey and many heads of state or government who, in order to remain in power, have manipulated their legal frameworks and violated democratic institutions.

However, the ambition to control the legislative and judicial branches, in addition to the executive branch, has not always been successful. Rafael Castillo’s coup attempt in Peru, constantly defended by the Mexican president, despite the principle of non-intervention that governs Mexico’s actions in international affairs, is proof of this.

This trend towards authoritarianism is not exclusive to Latin American countries or emerging economies. In the United States, even though it is the number one economy in the world and the country that leads the so-called free and democratic world, it has not escaped this authoritarian temptation and contempt for the law. Let us remember the call made by Donald Trump in January 2021 for an insurrection against the Capitol that ended in a political debacle, which added to a whole mandate in which the tenant of the White House constantly insulted the law and the institutions. Today, in an unprecedented case, the former US president is facing justice, not for these acts but for sexual scandals. This week Trump had to turn himself in to the judicial authorities, being the first former president of the American Union to be tried. This situation restores confidence in the power of the law, which shows that no president, no matter how powerful, is above it.

A couple of weeks ago, the attempt by the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to seize control of the Supreme Court ended in resounding failure when hundreds of thousands of Israelis took to the streets to reject his initiative, since this reform sought to grant more power to the Executive to the detriment of justice, which would be seriously undermined. The crisis that Israel is going through today is the most serious several decades ago, even mentioning the danger of a civil war. Faced with these massive demonstrations, Netanyahu chose to freeze his initiative, an action that his Defense Minister had already recommended to him to avoid national fracture. Netanyahu’s response like all authoritarian leaders was to remove him from office. Today Netanyahu loses legitimacy and accusations against him appear to which he will have to answer once he ends his term. Organized Israeli society was able to contain the reform proposal and put the law first.

The authoritarian drift has shown different paths in the world that go from its consolidation in power to its failure, the currency is in the air with respect to Mexico. The contempt that the Mexican president has in relation to the rule of law is alarming. Phrases like: “don’t tell me that the law is the law” “to hell with the institutions” “I can ignore the law because I feel that I have a superior quality” all pronounced by AMLO are a clear affront to the rule of law , democracy and institutions. Their continuous attacks on the National Electoral Institute (INE), the INAI and other bodies cannot but demonstrate the authoritarianism that reigns in our country. The end of the mandate of Andrés Manuel López is approaching, will it be the law that today despises the one that will judge him tomorrow?

The author is a PhD in International Relations, a specialist in Global Affairs and International Politics. She is a research professor at the School of Government and Social Sciences of the Tecnológico de Monterrey.

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