Mexican president seeks inquiry into judge who halted power sector reform

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico’s president has requested an inquiry into a judge who last week ordered the suspension of a government-backed electricity reform that privileges the dispatch of power from state-run Comision Federal de Electricidad, he said on Monday.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador speaks during a news conference at the National Palace in Mexico City, Mexico March 12, 2021. Mexico's Presidency/Handout via REUTERS

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador told reporters at a government news conference that he has sent a letter to the head of the Supreme Court in which he outlined his complaint against the federal judge’s temporary freeze of the controversial reform.

The leftist energy nationalist singled out the judge by name, and suggested that he may have acted improperly in an order issued just days after the new law had been enacted by Lopez Obrador’s congressional allies.

Later on Monday, Supreme Court Chief Judge Arturo Zaldivar said the request for an investigation will be considered by a specialized judiciary council, in a short letter addressed to Lopez Obrador.

Zaldivar emphasized that the investigation will be opened only if the council determines that it is warranted.

He added that democratic rule of law is built on the ability of judges to “act with autonomy and independence.”

The order by Judge Juan Pablo Gomez Fierro argued that the legislation may violate constitutional provisions that ensure the right to free competition, and ordered it suspended for the duration of the trial.

Lopez Obrador also suggested that nefarious private-sector actors were likely also behind the suspension.

“There are people, organizations and companies related to the old regime who act based on their well-known economic and political interests, who use corruption and influence peddling as their modus operandi,” he said, singling out Spanish power company Iberdrola but without providing evidence of wrong doing.

Lopez Obrador added that he nonetheless respected the judicial process and wants to ensure transparency in its decision making.

The president has argued that the new law would guard against price gouging, however it upended a previous reform enacted under his predecessor that mandated that the lowest-cost power be dispatched to the grid first.

Reporting by David Alire Garcia; Additional reporting by Diego Ore; Editing by Marguerita Choy