Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has rebuked a statement from Washington that appeared to criticise an electoral reform law in his country, accusing the United States of meddling in the affairs of its neighbour.
Lopez Obrador said on Tuesday the US always interferes “in matters that don’t concern” it.
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A day earlier, the US State Department weighed in on a law that would cut the budget for Mexico’s independent electoral agency. Thousands had gathered in Mexico City on Sunday to reject the legislation, saying it erodes democracy and weakens election integrity.
Washington did not explicitly criticise the measure but said it supports “independent, well-resourced electoral institutions that strengthen democratic processes and the rule of law”.
The US remarks irked Lopez Obrador, who had defended the electoral reform law as a push to cut costs for taxpayers. After narrowly losing his first presidential bid in 2006, Lopez Obrador made allegations of voting fraud, and he has been critical of Mexico’s electoral agency since then.
“There’s currently more democracy in Mexico than in the United States,” he said on Tuesday.
Mexican presidents are constitutionally limited to one six-year term in office, so Lopez Obrador will not seek reelection in next year’s presidential vote, though his left-wing Morena party is considered among the front-runners.
The US State Department had also stressed on Monday the importance of “respect for judicial independence” in a “healthy democracy”. Lopez Obrador has previously criticised Mexico’s judiciary, driving accusations by opposition members that he is threatening the country’s court system.
“Today, in Mexico, we see a great debate on electoral reforms on the independence of electoral and judicial institutions that illustrates Mexico’s vibrant democracy,” the State Department said on Monday. “We respect Mexico’s sovereignty.”
Later in the day, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said the US views Mexico as an “equal partner”, adding that Secretary of State Antony Blinken is “very focused on the erosion of democracy around the world”.
The Mexican president said on Tuesday that, instead of commenting on Mexico, Washington should “deal with what’s happening in Peru”.
He denounced what he called US support for “the coup plotters who trampled on freedoms and democracy in that country”.
Lopez Obrador has been a vocal supporter of Peru’s former left-wing President Pedro Castillo, who was removed from office by legislators late last year and replaced by his then-vice president, Dina Boluarte, after he attempted to dissolve Congress.
Boluarte — who faced deadly protests against her government in the past weeks — has accused Lopez Obrador of “unacceptable” interference in her country’s affairs after he questioned the legitimacy of her government.
In December, Washington recognised and pledged to work with Boluarte’s government.
“The United States looks forward to working closely with President Boluarte on shared goals and values related to democracy, human rights, security, anti-corruption and economic prosperity,” the State Department said after a phone call between Blinken and the Peruvian president last year.