Top Mexican court backs referendum on prosecuting ex-presidents

Mexico City (AFP) –


Mexico's Supreme Court on Thursday endorsed President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador's push for a referendum on whether to prosecute five of his predecessors over allegations including corruption.

Lopez Obrador's proposed "people's consultation" targets Carlos Salinas, Ernesto Zedillo, Vicente Fox, Felipe Calderon and Enrique Pena Nieto, whose terms in power stretched from 1988 to 2018.

The left-wing populist, who came to power in 2018 vowing to curb rampant graft, has accused them of presiding over "excessive concentration of wealth, monumental losses to the treasury, privatization of public property and widespread corruption."

Under Mexican law, the president has the right to request a referendum, and it is up to the Supreme Court to decide whether it is constitutional.

His proposal was approved by six of the court's 11 judges, one of whom tried unsuccessfully to have it declared unconstitutional, saying it risked violating the presumption of innocence.

"It is not for us to be a closed door, but rather the bridge that allows citizens to participate in major national decisions," said Supreme Court president Arturo Zaldivar.

Lopez Obrador has overseen a series of referendums since taking office on controversial issues including his "Maya Train" railroad project and canceling a partially finished airport for Mexico City.

"We must not be afraid of the people, and we must enforce democracy," Lopez Obrador said Thursday ahead of the court's announcement.