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Mexican president to remain above the law

March 6, 2013

Less than a week after President Enrique Peña Nieto went on live television to declare that “no one is above the law,” his party blocked reforms to ensure that he remains the one person in Mexico who is still above the law.

Until now there have been remarkably few checks on the abuse of power by Mexican politicians, but on Tuesday the Chamber of Deputies approved constitutional reforms that mean governors, congressmen, judges, prosecutors and other elected officials will now face immediate investigation for any wrongdoing, regardless of whether they still hold office or not. The bill received 376 votes in favor, 56 against and five abstentions.

However, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) blocked a further amendment that would have ended the president’s legal immunity against any crimes committed while still in office. The conservative National Action Party (PAN) and the leftist Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), Labor Party (PT) and Citizens Movement had all voted in favor of ending the president’s  immunity to immediate prosecution, but lacked the two-thirds majority needed to pass the amendment.

“This is a matter of protecting Mexican institutions. The presidency is an institution that represents national unity and this institution can not be breached or exposed to malicious or frivolous court proceedings,” said PRI Deputy Paulina Alejandra del Moral.

This explanation proved insufficient for Silvano Aureoles of the PRD, who urged his PRI counterparts to justify how, “when the head of the federal government has stated that no one is untouchable, you now insist that he must be the only untouchable one, the only citizen unequal before the law?”

The modified bill will now be returned to Mexico’s upper house, which in December 2011 had approved the elimination of legal immunity for all officials, including the president.

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