Mexico’s anti-corruption efforts takes a PR blow

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Mexico’s president has made corruption the centerpiece of his political agenda, so when one of the country’s most corrupt and self-confessed former officials was photographed eating recklessly at a luxury restaurant over the weekend, it’s good There was no optics.

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The photos of Emilio Lozoya, the former head of a state-run oil company, who is now a government witness in a corruption case involving multimillion-dollar bribery charges, could not have come at a worse time.

Currently, Mexico’s attorney general is trying to lock 31 academics in a maximum security prison because they claim they improperly received nearly $2.5 million in government science funding years ago. Laws at the time allowed such funding, and researchers say it was not wrong.

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Meanwhile, the same attorney general did not manage to jail any of the top individuals implicated in a major corruption case at the state-run Pemex oil company, which nearly bankrupted the firm.

Mexico City security analyst Alejandro Hope was blunt about Monday’s uproar: “Optics sucks. They are terrible. “

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López Obrador was also outraged by the photos of Lozoya in a Mexico City restaurant, even though as a protected witness he is not confined to his home or under arrest of any kind.

“I believe it is legal, but it is immoral that these things happen. It is at least unreasonable,” said López Obrador. “That is why they get so angry when they eat at a luxury restaurant. Even if it is Can do so legally, but he has witnessed acts of corruption that have caused great harm to Mexico.

It’s even more embarrassing as López Obrador announced on Monday that he would make his second trip outside the country to visit the United Nations on November 9 – to deliver a speech about the dangers of corruption.

Lozoya, who fled to Spain, was arrested there and extradited back to Mexico in 2020. He quickly decided to turn over the state’s evidence and testify against other former officials, in exchange for not going to jail himself.

Lozoya alleged that former President Enrique Pea Nieto and his right-hand man, then-Treasury Secretary Luis Videgre, instructed him to bribe lawmakers, including five senators, to support controversial energy and other structural reforms in 2013 and 2014.

Lozoya also faces corruption charges related to the overpriced purchase of a fertilizer plant by Pemex and a multimillion-dollar bribe paid by Brazilian construction firm Odebrecht. He has said that Pea Nieto and Videgaray asked him to use $4 million from Odebrecht to pay foreign campaign advisers to work on Pea Nieto’s 2012 election campaign.

Vidgre has denied the allegations. Pea Nieto, who stepped down in 2018 and is reported to be living abroad, has not spoken publicly since the allegations surfaced. Neither man faces any charges.

And the businessman who accused the government of paying bills on the fertilizer plant deal, paid some money early and was released.

So only prosecutors have actually pursued opposition politicians in the case who allegedly received bribes, and this has raised suspicion in a country where the law has long been used only to punish political enemies. .

Attorney General Alejandro Gertz Manero’s office said in a statement that the case against Lozoya and other allegedly corrupt officials is ongoing. He said Lozoya’s case would come up again in the November 3 hearing.

But Lozoya has already won several extensions in her case. “Lozoya is able to play for the time being, and he can bet on ending this administration,” said security analyst Hope.

The analyst said that the photos of Lozoya eating with friends largely shrugged off the idea that López Obrador was going to actively prosecute crimes of the past.

“It’s the last nail in the coffin of the imagination that this case was going to blow the lid off the sewer of corruption,” Hope said.

Meanwhile, Gertz Manero’s office is still trying to lock 31 academics and researchers into a maximum security prison usually reserved for drug lords, though a judge has already refused to issue an arrest warrant for them. have make.

Protests were heard by researchers in Mexico and abroad last month, when prosecutors accused academics and members of a scientific advisory board of money laundering, organized crime and embezzlement, allegedly unnecessary not directly related to research. To spend too much money on items.

Members of the advisory board, created to promote scientific discussion, said the $2.5 million had not been spent and had operated for more than 15 years under the council’s own rules.

Credit: www.independent.co.uk / Mexico City

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