As the Bush administration continues to tout its efforts to promote democracy in such places as Afghanistan and Iraq, it has overlooked a serious challenge to democracy in Mexico. With 15 months left until the 2006 presidential election, Mexico City’s left-leaning, 51-year-old populist mayor, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, may be forced out of the race due to a highly undemocratic Mexican law.
At the heart of the scandal is a 2001 lawsuit over the city’s construction of a hospital access road on disputed land in Mexico City. Rival political parties PRI and President Fox’s own PAN are uniting against the popular mayor, who currently leads in the polls. Their effort (despite the fact that many Mexicans feel the case to be a minor infraction) attempts to strip Lopez Obrador of the immunity from prosecution he maintains as a public official. Taking away Lopez Obrador’s immunity would bar him from running for further office, since Mexican law states that politicians cannot run for office if under indictment, unlike his majority leader neighbor to the north.
If the Bush administration is so serious about promoting democracy abroad, how can it ignore such flagrant abuse of power by the Mexican Chamber of Deputies? President Bush’s Inaugural Address spoke of his desire to support democracy whenever and wherever necessary; however, unless you are from the Ukraine or Central Asia, such promises are for naught.
- Jay Heidbrink