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The bill would dramatically reduce the salaries of the court's own members.
Mexico’s Supreme Court (SCJN) suspended a new bill that reduces payments for high level officers in the public sector, temporarily frustrating one of the main campaign promises of President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.
The bill, named “Law of Remunerations of Public Servants,” was promulgated in November by Lopez Obrador’s National Regeneration Movement (Morena) and stipulates that no public servant can earn more than the president, who already cut his own salary to 40 percent of what Enrique Peña Nieto earned, to US$5,331.36 monthly.
Lopez Obrador promised to fight rampant corruption, reduce inequality and end with the privileges of the ruling class, saying that there can’t be “a rich government and poor people.”
But opposition senators challenged the bill arguing it would “put at risk” the public servants’ right to a “decent salary” and the right of citizens to receive an “effective and professional public service.”
The appeal was filed by senators of the main opposition forces, the Revolutionary Institutional Party (PRI), the National Action Party (PAN), the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD), Citizens’ Movement (MC) and other independent legislators, citing constitutional articles 75 and 127 that protect the members autonomous institutions.
The SCJN’s Minister Alberto Perez Dayan explained his decision saying that “applying the challenged bill could irreversibly vulnerate fundamental rights.”
The bill would also affect the salaries of the judicial power and SCJN, including Perez Dayan’s, who have been accused by legislators of earning more than US$30,000 a month. Supporters of the law accuse the court having a vested interest in protecting its members’ salaries.
More than 300 members of the federal judicial power have filed appeals against the bill, citing the constitution's article 94, which states that salaries of members of the judicial power can't be reduced for the time they're in office.
The court decided the law would be suspended until there’s a final ruling, complicating Lopez Obrador’s first budget due Dec. 15., but allowing the president’s salary to be adjusted.
The government will be able to modify other salaries not related to autonomous institutions.
The National Commission of Human Rights (CNDH) also filed a complaint but didn’t demand a suspension of the bill.
Speaking to the press in Chiapas, southern Mexico, Lopez Obrador described the ruling as “an insult to the people of Mexico and an act of dishonesty.”
He declared the presidency won’t intervene in the decision, but hopes the court will recapacitate on the ruling.
“They’re overage and it’s an independent power that I have to respect, but one thing is the legal respect and another thing is me remaining silent,” he said.
Mario Delgado, lower house leader of Morena, blamed the opposition for trying to protect what he called the “gilded bureaucracy” and said his party had a right to set pay levels in the budget.
“We will put the cap on the president’s salary, and go downward from there for everyone,” he told Mexican radio.
Lopez Obrador won office by a landslide in July, helping to propel MORENA and its coalition allies to the first outright majority in both houses of Congress in Mexico since 1997, when changes in the political spheres allowed more political participation and ended the decades-long one-party rule by the PRI.
After the court’s decision, Lopez Obrador told a crowd in the western state of Nayarit, where he was pledging aid for victims of a recent hurricane, that the days of having a “rich government with a poor population” had to end.
“The guys on top have a great life,” he said. “Now they’re angry because they were earning 600,000 pesos a month. And that’s all over.”