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Mexicans rally to support their democracy

At the Zócalo, or Constitution Plaza, in Mexico City, a protester lifts a sign in defense of democracy. (Regina López/YJI)

MEXICO CITY – Democracy has had its ups and downs these past few years. In Mexico it has been sitting still for a bit more than 30 years. It’s all thanks to the INE, the acronym in Spanish for the national electoral institute.

The INE’s duty is to keep the elections clean and fair.

Now, some Mexicans see their democracy under threat as the government moves to cut the power of the National Electoral Institute.

People at the Feb. 26 rally. (Regina López/YJI)

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador – known as AMLO – has held the job since 2018. His term ends next year.

Obrador’s government has been characterized by an economic crisis, a shortage of medical resources, strained diplomatic relationships, an increase in violence and a polarized citizenry.

Last year he proposed a series of reforms to eliminate the National Electoral Institute. The Chamber of Deputies overruled Obrador after a big protest held Nov. 13, 2022.

Now, he has presented what he calls ‘the Plan B.’ The Plan B won’t make the National Electoral Institute disappear, but would eliminate almost 50% of its budget.

It’s especially scary because the voting system would become the responsibility of the local governments, which are mostly controlled by Obrador’s party, the Regenerational National Movement.

The chamber of deputies approved this plan. Now it’s up to Mexico’s Supreme Court to pass it.

On Sunday, thousands of people gathered in cities in Mexico and around the world to protest what they see as an attack on their democracy.

In downtown Mexico City, politicians, journalists and experts called on Mexicans to rally against the plan.

“I came here to defend the INE so my vote will still be respected,” said Daniel Vargas González, a man in the rally.

Above the thousands of heads at the rally, signs popped up with the words #EL INE NO SE TOCA, which translates, ‘The INE is not to be messed with.’

“The INE is not to be messed with.” (Regina López/YJI)

Different voices sang the same song, ‘A eso vine, a defender al INE’. This means ‘That’s why I came, to defend the INE.’

The main speakers were the political journalist Beatriz Pagés and an ex-minister of the Supreme Court, José Ramórn Cossío. The crowd was quiet as they emphasized in their speeches how important it is to keep Mexico’s democracy unblemished.

“Freedom that is not practiced [is] freedom that gets lost,” said Beatriz Pagés to the cheering crowds.

After the speakers finished, the national anthem began to play and every single person was proudly singing the Mexican hymn.

“Disappointed. I would feel incredibly disappointed if the Supreme Court approves the Plan B,” said Juan Sánchez, a man at the rally.

Protest signs at the rally defending the National Electoral Institute, or INE. ((Regina López/YJI)

Mexico’s democracy has faced many challenges in its more than 110 years.

After the Mexican revolution in 1910, the country established a democratic government. Several parties would select their chosen candidate and the Mexican citizens would vote which of them would be the next president for the next six years, with no reelections.

It was a great idea for a broken nation.

Not long after, corrupt and megalomaniac men started to creep into this new government.

One of the biggest — if not the biggest – political party of the time was Institutional Revolutionary Party. For the next 70 years their candidate won every election. It seemed like every president picked their successor, of the same party, and that person coincidentally won the next term elections.

Terrible things happened during those 70 years. Mexican citizens endured economic hardships, authoritarian leaders and censorship enforced with violence.

That lasted until 1990, when the Congress of the Union – Mexico’s federal lawmakers – created the Federal Electorate Institute, which would soon after become known as the INE.

A traditional Mexican musician at the rally with the flag of the National Electoral Institute. (Regina López/YJI)

In the year 2000, for the first time in 70 years, a party other than the Institutional Revolutionary Party won the presidential election. Vicente Fox of the National Action Party became Mexico’s president.

Fox served as president from the year 2000 to 2006. Since then, for the next 23 years, Mexico has had different presidents from different parties.

Obrador ran for president in the 2006 election with the Revolutionary Democrat Party, but lost to Felipe Calderón, the National Action Party’s candidate.

Following his loss, Obrador started to claim the election’s results were fraud and that he had been cheated. After that, he picked himself up, created the Regenerational National Movement, started campaigning and 12 years later, became Mexico’s president.

Regina López is a Senior Correspondent with Youth Journalism International.

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