Governor elect in BC seeks to extend his term

Jaime Bonilla Valdez, governor elect of Baja California

Jaime Bonilla was elected Governor of Baja California on June 2nd, 2019. Source: El Tamaulipeco

08/06/19 (written by lcalderon) — Jaime Bonilla Valdez was elected governor for Baja California on June 2, 2019, along with five mayors and 25 state Congress representatives. He was initially elected for an extraordinary term of two years, from November 1, 2019 to October 31, 2021. This extraordinary period of governorship was set forth by a Constitutional reform in 2014 that established that the governor elected in 2019 would serve a term of two years (instead of six) in order for the federal midterm elections and state governor elections to coincide, exactly three years after the presidential election.

However, on July 8, 2019, Baja California Congressman Víctor Moran (Movimiento Regeneración Nacional, Morena) called for a secret, unscheduled session, which was held in Playas de Rosarito –about two and a half hours from the state’s capital, Mexicali. At said session, Congressman Moran passed a motion to extend governor-elect Bonilla’s term from two to five years, ending in October 31, 2024 instead of 2021. Mr. Moran’s argument was that having another election in two years would impose a grave economic burden on Baja California’s economy, which is already facing a serious public spending deficit, thus making it more desirable to postpone it until 2024. He also emphasized the importance of giving the government-elect enough time to complete their long-term projects, specifically those designed to address public security concerns at the state level. The motion passed with 21 out of the 25 votes in favor, only three of which were affiliates of the Morena Party. Congressional representatives voted through concealed voting slips and only one National Action Party (Partido de Acción Nacional, PAN) Congressman expressed his disagreement with the procedure and the motion. Congressional representatives from the local party, Baja California’s Party (Partido de Baja California, PBC) were not present at the session; allegedly, PBC representatives were not even summoned.

During that same session, State Congress also approved to create two important positions: Counselor for the Instituto de Transparencia y Acceso a la Información Pública (Institute for Transparency and Access to Public Information, ITAIP) and Superior Auditor for the State. Sources such as El Economista and Sin Embargo allege these positions were Morena’s negotiating assets to convince PAN and PRI’s Congressional representatives to vote for the initiative. Allegations grew stronger when the appointment of Carlos Montejo Oceguera, a longtime PAN member and collaborator of current Baja Calfornia Governor Francisco Vega de Lamadrid, as Superior Auditor was deemed official immediately after the confidential session. Montejo’s appointment became notably suspicious when he was declared to be in charge of auditing the state government’s performance during the last three years. This came just weeks after the Federal Superior Auditor declared that Governor Vega’s government was involved in the embezzlement of over $4.5 billion Mexican pesos (roughly $240 million USD).

Initial reactions

Citizens' protests

Citizens protest against “Bonilla Law.”
Source: Diario de Mexico

Public opposition to what is now being called “Bonilla Law” manifested soon thereafter. Citizens throughout Baja California called for protests at the local office for the National Human Rights Commission (Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos, CNDH), demanding that the national Supreme Court (Suprema Corte de Justicia Nacional, SCJN) evaluate the reform. They also requested that Congressmen who voted in favor of what they perceive as an unconstitutional action be politically tried. Additionally, they argued that the opinion expressed on June 2nd must prevail, which is when citizens elected Bonilla for a term of just two years – not the expanded five years.

Bonilla’s decision to extend his term made it to the national headlines almost immediately, and the reactions came from all political levels. One of the first institutions to show its discontent was the National Action Party (PAN). The PAN’s national management expressed its condemnation of the term extension, highlighting its discontent with the state Congressman representing their party who voted in favor of extending Bonilla’s governorship. A few weeks later, the PAN started removing its state Congressmen from Baja California.

For his part, Bonilla argued that the term’s extension eliminates the need to have another round of elections in two years. Regardless of the vote on the governorship, Baja Californians still have to vote in five mayors and 25 Congressmen in 2021. The Morena Party also threw its support behind Bonilla’s term extension, noting that the two-year term represents a violation of Bonilla’s political-electoral rights, a claim that Bonilla already submitted to the Electoral Court. This challenge was successful at the state court, but not at the federal court.

Government Response

When concerns began to be raised, President Andres Manuel López Obrador during his morning address to the media and public said, “If [Jaime Bonilla] would have asked, I would have not approved it” (Jimenez, 2). According to López Obrador, Bonilla’s policy does not does not align with his political ideology;. It is important to note, however, that such topics are often not the types of issues brought before the president. Still, President López Obrador did weigh in given the gravity of the situation. For one, the president clarified that extending the governor’s term did not mean that Bonilla would seek reelection, as  he was not looking to violate the Constitution. Similarly, he stressed, this was certainly not implying that he would seek presidential reelection when his sexenio expires (2018-2024). López Obrador finished by saying that he would not intervene in the matter. It is up to the Judiciary’s Electoral Court to decide whether the term extension is valid in an impartial process that is not deserving of presidential influence, he said.

In response, the federal Congress approved a resolution asking state Congressmen to revert the approval

Congress of Baja California confirms term extension

State Congress confirms “Bonilla Law” after being called to a session to re-consider it.

of the “Bonilla Law.” Doing so would  respect the two-year term that citizens chose for governor-elect Bonilla. In return, the Congress of Baja California decided to have an extraordinary, closed-door session in Playas de Rosarito with only 14 Congressmen present. Instead of revesting their decision during this session; state Congressional representatives instead confirmed Bonilla’s term extension from two years to five years. They justified their decision by arguing that the economy of the state had to be preserved and that it was of outmost importance to prioritize state sovereignty in this matter.

After reconfirming “Bonilla Law,” federal legislators started a movement to take the matter to the national Supreme Court arguing that this extension is an act against the Constitution.

State Status

In the meantime, outgoing Governor Vega de Lamadrid announced that he would not declare the new reform in the State’s Official Newspaper out of respect for the citizen’s decision to vote for a two-year term. This statement is Governor Vega’s declaration of support for public opposition to the “Bonila Law” since the State’s Official Newspaper is the medium to publish State legislation.

The President of the PAN in Baja California also noted that it would have been possible for Bonilla to challenge the 2014 two-year term reform within the state legal frameworks if he followed the proper procedure 90 days before the election. Bonilla failed to meet the dates and conditions to submit his disagreement, however, thus removing that possible course of action.

Sources

“AMLO se habría pronunciado en contra de ampliación de mandato de Bonilla,” El Sol de México, July 12, 2019.

“Ciudadanos protestan contra ‘Ley Bonilla’ en BC; piden la intervención de la CNDH,” Milenio, July 15, 2019.

“El ‘agandalle’ de Bonilla en BC es parte de un pacto de protección al Gobierno de ‘Kiko’ Vega, acusan,” Sin Embargo, July 18, 2019.

“El pacto: ampliación de mandato a cambio del auditor,” El Economista, July 21, 2019.

“En 2021, BC elegirá a cinco alcaldes y 25 diputados,” La Jornada, July 9, 2019.

“Impunidad a ‘Kiko’ Vega, entrega de cargos públicos y ‘sobornos’ millonarios, a cambio de la ‘Ley Bonilla’,” Proceso, July 16, 2019.

“Jaime Bonilla gobernará cinco años en Baja California en medio de controversia,” San Diego Union Tribune, July 23, 2019.

“‘Kiko’ desvió 4 mil 600 mdp, ocultó 802 en deuda y pagó intereses sin razón,” Zeta Tijuana, March 4, 2019.

“Kiko Vega no publicará en Diario Oficial ampliación a periodo de Jaime Bonilla en BC,” Proceso, July 9, 2019.

“Mexico border state extends governor’s term amid criticism,” Washington Post, July 24, 2019.

“PAN inicia expulsión de diputados que ampliaron la gubernatura de Jaime Bonilla en Baja California,” Aristegui Noticias, July 11, 2019.

“Panistas regalan gubernatura de cinco años a Bonilla,” Zeta Tijuana, July 8, 2019.

 

 

 

 

Panel analyzes the 2018 Mexican Election

From left to right, moderator Dr. David A. Shirk and election panelists, Amb. Jeffrey Davidow, Dr. Victor Espinoza, Dr. Clare Seelke, and Dr. Emily Edmonds-Poli.

From left to right: moderator Dr. David A. Shirk and panelists, Amb. Jeffrey Davidow, Dr. Victor Espinoza, Dr. Clare Seelke, and Dr. Emily Edmonds-Poli.

10/03/2018 (written by Rita Kuckertz) – On Thursday, September 20, 2018  Justice in Mexico, in collaboration with the University of San Diego’s Master of Arts in International Relations (MAIR) program, hosted a panel of experts in order to discuss the significance of Mexico’s 2018 Presidential Election and what to expect from the incoming administration. Panelists included Clare Seelke of the Congressional Research Service; Dr. Victor Espinoza, Director of the Department of Public Administration at the Northern Border College (El Colegio de la Frontera Norte, COLEF); Amb. Jeffrey Davidow, former U.S. Ambassador to Mexico; and Dr. Emily Edmonds-Poli, faculty member in the Department of Political Science and International Relations at the University of San Diego (USD). Dr. David A. Shirk, Director of Justice in Mexico and the Master of Arts in International Relations program, moderated the panel discussion.

A Watershed Election

Each guest speaker shared their expertise on the topic of Mexican politics in order to reflect on the nature and outcomes of Mexico’s July 1st vote. Given the exceptional nature of these elections, Dr. Shirk asked the panel of experts to especially consider the historic upset of traditional party alignments, the future of the U.S.-Mexico relationship, and the observed increase in political violence leading up to July, 2018.
Clare Seelke explained the triumph of Morena party candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador as the result of the public’s desire for radical political change. Seelke posited that other candidates running for the Mexican presidency, including Ricardo Anaya and José Antonio Meade, were essentially the same in the public eye. According to Seelke, the simple fact of López Obrador’s singularity amidst other traditional candidates may explain the “magnitude of the victory” at approximately 53% of the total vote.

The Future of U.S.-Mexico Relations

Reflecting on the implications of this outcome, Seelke questioned the future of U.S.-Mexico relations in the context of the shared drug and security crisis, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and Mexico’s energy reform enacted during President Enrique Peña Nieto’s tenure. While Mexico has collaborated with the United States on each of these dimensions under Peña Nieto’s term from 2012 to 2018, Seelke expressed uncertainty regarding future bilateral cooperation on these matters.

The Vote from Abroad

Dr. Victor Espinoza from COLEF spoke at length about the significance of votes from abroad during the 2018 election. He explained that since 2006, there have been a total of twenty-six presidential, senatorial, gubernatorial, and local elections that allowed voters to participate from abroad. However, increasingly, the percentage of eligible voters living outside of Mexico has declined since 2006. In the July elections, Dr. Espinoza noted that this figure was “infinitesimal,” at less than 1% turnout. With 97% of eligible abroad voters living in the United States, this raises questions about the specific factors that have so drastically reduced the participation of eligible Mexican voters there. However, as Dr. Espinoza explained, other trends characterizing the abroad vote in previous elections were reversed; while Mexican voters living outside the country typically opt for conservative candidates, in 2018, the vote leaned left with Morena’s López Obrador.

Radical Change or Return to Ruling Party Politics?

While a historic election, Former Ambassador to Mexico Jeffrey Davidow argued that, in general, we tend to overanalyze the election of politicians. According to Amb. Davidow, López Obrador won the election because the vast majority of Mexicans who registered to vote were disillusioned with traditional political parties. Concerned about high levels of corruption and what they perceived to be a “rigged” system, the Mexican public opted for a new approach to politics. As such, Amb. Davidow argued that voters did not necessarily stand behind all of López Obrador’s policies; they simply wanted to prevent traditional party candidates from entering office.

However, despite his candidacy representing a change in the political order to many Mexicans, Amb. Davidow argued that López Obrador’s policies are reminiscent of the Institutional Revolutionary Party’s (Partido Revolucionario Insitutional, PRI) “ruling party” politics of the 1970s and 1980s. In his words, Amb. Davidow described López Obrador as “[tending] to view Mexican politics and policies not as a radical, but as someone who has never really accepted the modernization of Mexico.” Thus, while some have likened the incoming president to Hugo Chávez, Amb. Davidow argues that López Obrador hardly fits this characterization. Much like his PRI predecessors, López Obrador’s platform rests on the centralization of authority and the invigoration of state enterprises. As such, recent reforms, such as the historic energy and criminal procedure reforms, may see changes under the new administration. As Amb. Davidow put it, “Will it be devastating? We don’t know. But it will be different.”

Looking Ahead: Implications of an AMLO Presidency

Dr. Emily Edmonds-Poli, adding to Amb. Davidow’s analysis, reminded those in attendance that López Obrador was once a “staunch priista,” and much of his political behavior today is similar to that of thirty years ago. However, despite López Obrador’s steadfastness, Dr. Edmonds-Poli argued that his election was unprecedented in Mexico’s democratic era. As she explained, historically, those observing Mexican politics have argued that no candidate would ever win with a majority in the multi-party system, especially with a majority in Congress. Thus, the July 1 election was unprecedented in and of itself.

Given his election by majority, Dr. Edmonds-Poli contended that López Obrador does indeed have a mandate. However, what remains to be seen is whether the future president will be able to successfully fulfill this mandate. According to Dr. Edmonds-Poli, the stakes are certainly high; with the “groundswell of excitement” that accompanied the rise of Morena, López Obrador supporters (i.e., the majority of those who participated in the July 1 elections) are expectant of change. Should the future president remain in his 1970s political mold, this could severely damage not only his base of support and future legacy, but also, Mexico’s democracy itself. As Dr. Edmonds-Poli reminded viewers, recent public opinion polls found that only 49% of people expressed faith in democracy in Mexico. As such, given this fragile perception, any failure by the incoming government to fulfill its imperatives could inflict significant wounds on Mexican democracy. As with all matters discussed throughout the course of the panel, analysts will have to wait until December 1 to reevaluate Mexico’s course moving forward.

Please find the archived Facebook Live video below:

To learn about future events, click here.

Implications of Lopez Obrador’s Security Agenda

06/30/2018 (written by Lucy Clement La Rosa)-  On July 1, 2018, in one of the most unprecedented elections of its history, Mexico elected a new President. Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, commonly known by his initials, AMLO, will be Mexico’s next President. Previously having run for president in 2006 and 2012, his victory, though groundbreaking, is not surprising. AMLO consistently led election polls in comparison to the other major party candidates, Ricardo Anaya and Jose Antonio Meade.

It goes without saying that 2018 will stand out in Mexico’s election history. For the first time ever, independent candidates were able to seek presidential nomination. In addition, aside from electing a new party candidate, Mexican citizens voted for over 18,000 elected positions. With 89 million eligible voters, the highest in Mexican history, election outcomes have the potential to markedly change Mexico’s political landscape. On that note, Lopez Obrador’s victory may significant influence on Mexico’s relationship with its northern neighbor, the United States. Even more so, however, Lopez Obrador’s proposed security agenda could have unique implications on Mexico’s current security.

Lopez Obrador’s Background

Born in Mexico’s state of Tabasco, Lopez Obrador went on to study political science and public administration at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (Universidad Autónoma de México, UNAM), Mexico’s largest public university. Lopez Obrador’s political experience is rooted in Mexico’s long standing political party, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (Partido Revolucionario Institucional, PRI). In 1976, he actively supported and campaigned on behalf of PRI Senate Candidate, Carlos Pellicer.

Lopez Obrador left the party in 1988 to join the National Democratic Front (Frente Democrático Nacional, FDN), a dissident left-wing coalition assembled to challenge the hegemonic rule of the PRI. That same year, Lopez Obrador ran as opposition for Tabasco’s governorship. Although he lost, he ultimately became the president of the Party of the Democratic Revolution, a center-left party founded from the remnants of the FDN. Lopez Obrador served as PRD president from 1996 to 1999.

Throughout his tenure, Lopez Obrador continued to build his political stature, including campaigning for indigenous rights, and organizing protests against Mexico’s behemoth energy company, Mexican Petroleum (Petróleos Mexicanos, PEMEX), and PRI corruption. In 2000, he was elected as Mexico City’s mayor. His time in office was considered to be generally successful as his administration significantly improved Mexico City’s infrastructure, including remodeling the historic metropolitan center, expanding highways and improving public transportation with the introduction of Metrobus, a public transit system.

Lopez Obrador resigned from his mayoral position in order to seek presidential nomination for the PRD for the 2006 Presidential elections. Although he led the majority of the election polls, National Action Party (Partido Acción Nacional, PAN) candidate, Felipe Calderon, edged ahead by less than one percent.  Lopez Obrador protested the election results, demanding a recount and even held a public “inauguration” declaring himself the legitimate president of Mexico. Lopez Obrador ran again for president in 2012, once again falling short and alleging election

Supporters for Andres Manuel López Obrador. (Guillermo Arias, The New York Times)

Supporters for Andres Manuel López Obrador. (Guillermo Arias, The New York Times)

fraud.

Ultimately, Lopez Obrador stepped away from the PRD and founded his own political party in 2014, the National Regeneration Movement (Movimiento de Regeneración Nacional, MORENA).  In coalition with a left-wing Labor Party (Partido del Trabajo, PT), and right-wing Social Encounter Party (Partido Encuentro Social, PES), Lopez Obrador once again sought presidential candidacy in the 2018 elections.

A Revised Security Agenda  

Under the slogan, “Together we will make history (Juntos Haremos Historia),” Lopez Obrador successfully led a center-left campaign that captured over 50% of the vote with one of the highest election margins in Mexican political history. His firebrand promises to bring change to Mexico, resonated with many Mexican voters. Lopez Obrador emphasized his determination to uproot corruption across Mexico and address rampant issues of poverty and violence.

In particular, his rule of law and security-specific proposals include: creating a National School of Public Security to enforce a zero-tolerance policy on corruption among law enforcement, establish state-level entities and obligatory trainings to monitor and increase the professionalization of law enforcement officials across Mexico, target the socio-economic roots of organized crime to reduce the incentive of organized crime, reform the 19th Constitutional Article to allow for preemptive imprisonment for corruption crimes, and analyze the efficiency of the Judiciary Council and revise the structure of the federal judiciary, in particular the Supreme Court, accordingly.

One of Lopez Obrador’s most controversial security proposals includes amnesty legislation for the purpose of reducing cyclical patterns of socio-economic insecurity in Mexico. Following his election, Lopez Obrador held his first security cabinet meeting to further develop the parameters of this proposed legislation. According to Alfonso Durazo- Lopez Obrador’s selection for Secretary of Public Security, a newly reinstated position of state- amnesty would be key to the new administration’s security agenda.

Notwithstanding that amnesty is a politically ionized concept, particularly in Mexico’s current state of insecurity, some see it as a step towards the de-escalation of Mexico’s violence. Raúl Zepeda Gil, a security expert for the Institute Belisario Domínguez of the Senate of the Republic (Instituto Belisario Domínguez del Senado de la República), identifies three ways in which amnesty could introduce effective mechanisms for reducing violence, including: the perspective of post-conflict pacification, alternative sentencing for minor/non-violent acts, and revised drug regulations. Although, he concedes that implementing amnesty comes with another set of issues, such as sustainability and corruption, Zepeda highlights the benefits of amnesty negotiations and transitional justice strategies applied in Colombia, a country which experienced violence and organized crime similar to Mexico. Ultimately, he argues that amnesty legislation for Mexico may in fact be an effective formula to redressing systemic patterns of violence and socio-economic instability.

Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and Olga Sánchez Cordero.

Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and Olga Sánchez Cordero. (Marco Ugarte, Associated Press).

These aforementioned and often controversial mechanisms are already under-consideration and open to public debate, according to Olga Sánchez Cordero, Lopez Obrador’s selection for Secretary of Government. In a recent Seminar on Violence and Peace: Forget, Truth, or Justice? (Seminario sobre Violencia y Paz: ¿Olvido, verdad o Justicia?), she affirmed that the new administration will be open to transitional justice mechanisms in their bid to uphold a human rights-focused agenda. In the words of Sanchez Cordero, Mexico needs new institutions and new systems to amend its reality, including amnesty negotiations, but also alternative and reduced sentencings, the decriminalization of certain drugs, reparation polies, and socio-economic policies targeting the recovery of public spaces.

Lopez Obrador’s intended approach has already elicited a response from the White House, in particular the topic of narcotic policies. In answer to the possibility that Mexico may legalize drugs, Sarah Sanders, the White House Press Secretary, asserted that the United States no way supports the legalization of drugs. However, Sanchez Cordero’s proposals have thus far only suggested the decriminalization of marijuana and opium.

Although Lopez Obrador is adamant in his promise to reinvent the security strategies used in Mexico, critics are skeptical, pointing out that his proposed security policies are relatively experimental in Mexico. Regardless, on election day, Mexican voters were willing to take a leap of faith. In the words of Laura Chinchilla, former President of Costa Rica, recent populist elections reflect a regional demand for change. “The results are not endorsements of ideologies, but rather demands for change, a fatigue felt by people waiting for answers that simply have not arrived (New York Times).”

Upon accepting his appointment as President elect, Lopez Obrador stated that under his leadership he will “establish an authentic democracy” in Mexico. Political promises, apprehensive criticisms and hopeful constituents aside, only time will reveal the attainability of Lopez Obrador’s proposed security agenda.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sources

“Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.” Encyclopaedia Britannica. July 2, 2018. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Andres-Manuel-Lopez-Obrador

Palacios, Surya. “Perfil: Quien es Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO)? Alto Nivel. July 2, 2018. https://www.altonivel.com.mx/elecciones-2018/amlo/perfil-amlo-lopez-obrador/

Lafuente, Javier. “La Victoria de López Obrador lleva al poder a la izquierda en México.” El Pais. July 2, 2018. https://elpais.com/internacional/2018/07/02/mexico/1530496335_470433.html

Najar, Alberto. “5 razones que hacen históricas las elecciones presidenciales en México.” BBC Mundo. July 1, 2018. http://www.bbc.com/mundo/noticias-america-latina-43578377

Ahmed, Azam and Paulina Villegas. “Lopez Obrador, an Atypical Leftist, Wins Mexico Presidency in Landslide.” The New York Times. July 1, 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/01/world/americas/mexico-election-andres-manuel-lopez-obrador.html

“Esto fue lo que dijo López Obrador tras su Victoria electoral (discursos completos).” Animal Politico. July 2, 2018. https://www.animalpolitico.com/2018/07/discursos-lopez-obrador/

Zepeda Gil, Raúl. “Pacificación a la mexicana: apuntes sobre la propuesta de amnistía de López Obrador.” Nexos. July 9, 2018. https://seguridad.nexos.com.mx/?p=886