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Democrats accuse Mexican president of attacking judiciary

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MIAMI (AP) — Democrats in Congress are sounding the alarm over what they claim is mounting evidence that Mexico’s chief prosecutor — a key partner in U.S. law enforcement — is attacking the system country’s independent judiciary and selectively targets opponents of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. .

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 colleagues call on the Biden administration to share of their concerns directly to their Mexican. counterparts.

“López Obrador’s tenure has been marked by an increasing number of seemingly selective lawsuits 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 strengthen, not dismantle, democratic institutions and the rule of law.”

The letter, which is sure to anger López Obrador and his allies, focuses on a number of questionable actions and what they see as “personal vendettas” pursued by Attorney General Alejandro Gertz Manero. .

The chief prosecutor, a close ally of the leftist president, first came to the attention of US officials after the Trump administration dropped criminal narcotics amendments against former defense minister Salvador Cienfuegos and the returned to Mexico on the promise that he would be investigated there.

But the investigation against Cienfuegos was quickly closed and Gertz Manero then threatened to press charges against US prosecutors accustomed to working hand in hand with Mexican law enforcement to dismantle the country’s powerful cartels.

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

López Obrador was elected in 2018 on a promise to sweep away Mexico’s notoriously corrupt politics and likes to tout his commitment to austerity by taking commercial flights. But critics call it a swipe to distract from a worrying accumulation of power, failure to deliver on campaign promises and repeated attacks on opponents that undermine the rule of law in the states’ second-largest trading partner. -United.

This Sunday, his supporters are expected to give him a boost when they head to the polls for a referendum, the first of its kind, on whether he should be allowed to complete his six-year term – something that won’t happen. ‘has never been questioned and seen by many as a sideshow.

In their letter, the Democrats blame López Obrador for publicly attacking a judge who spoke out against his energy policies, pushing a seemingly unconstitutional plan to extend the term of a sympathetic Supreme Court Chief Justice, and to call for the resignation of Mexico’s highest electoral tribunal.

They are also concerned about the charges against Ricardo Anaya, a prominent conservative opponent of López Obrador.

Anaya, who finished runner-up in the 2018 presidential election, was charged last year with money laundering in connection with an alleged bribe he allegedly accepted in return for supporting a energy reform law. The charges are based on testimony from the former head of Mexico’s state-owned oil company, who claims that on instructions from López Obrador’s predecessor, he paid lawmakers, including $525,000 to Anaya, to vote for redesign.

Some have questioned the strength of the evidence, given that the alleged bribe was paid months after the reform was approved, when Anaya had already left office. Anaya has since fled Mexico and lives in the United States

López Obrador dismissed allegations of settling scores in the Anaya and other cases as “lies” and “lies” promoted by opponents to weaken his power.

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

Under Gertz Manero, the Mexican prosecutor’s office also failed to seriously investigate the president’s allies, according to the letter. These include allegations of money laundering and financial law violations against the president’s brother, who was filmed receiving money from a campaign supporter. López Obrador defended the contributions as legitimate.

Democrats also accuse Gertz Manero of pressing personal issues while in office.

These include trying to lock up 31 scientists in a maximum security prison because he claims they were wrongly given around $2.5 million in government funding years ago. Laws at the time allowed for such funding, and the researchers say it was not badly spent. Critics say the charges are a reward for researchers’ refusal to recognize Gertz 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 says the judge will ignore requests that the higher court keep in jail a niece he accuses of the death of his older brother, who died while in his custody. .

Gertz Manero admitted obtaining an advance copy of a draft Supreme Court opinion recommending the parent’s release – which struck many as a potential conflict of interest.

But he claims he received the court’s decision because he was acting in the case as a family member of the deceased, not as the attorney general.


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

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