President López Obrador Targets His Predecessors with a Referendum on Corruption

10/20/20 (written by kheinle) – President Andrés Manuel López Obrador is throwing the weight of the Supreme Court (Suprema Corte de Justicia de México, SCJN) behind a referendum to address past cases of criminal conduct, specifically that of corruption and ties to organized crime. In a move that is politically charged and controversial, the president’s referendum seeks to allow for former Mexican presidents to be investigated and held accountable for potential criminal acts conducted while in office.

President Andrés Manual López Obrador at a press briefing in July 2020. Photo: Marco Ugarte, The Associated Press.

The Referendum’s Target

The referendum specifically looks at the administrations from the last three decades, including former Presidents Carlos Salinas de Gortari (1988-1994), Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de León (1994-2000), Vicente Fox Quesada (2000-2006), Felipe Calderón Hinojosa (2006-2012), and Enrique Peña Nieto (2012-2018). There is only one other former Mexican president still alive, Luis Echeverría, but President López Obrador did not name him in the proceedings. Those that were named, however, are accused of being involved in “privatizations rife with cronyism, spiraling violence, and an increasing concentration of wealth,” writes The Guardian.

Nevertheless, none of the five former presidents named in the referendum have any open criminal cases against them. Rather, this referendum would simply allow for the possibility that they – and future presidents – be investigated and prosecuted for alleged crimes committed in office. Article 108 of the Mexican Constitution protects sitting presidents from being charged while serving, unless the wrongdoings pertain to treason and serious crimes against the common good (“por traición a la patria y delitos graves del orden común”). President López Obrador’s referendum would simply open the door for action to be taken after the president leaves office.

The Supreme Court’s Involvement

In September 2020, President López Obrador presented the referendum along with 2.5 million signatures in support to Congress. Mexico’s National Election Institute is currently verifying the signatures on the petition to ensure the validity of the registered voters. They have a 30-day window allotted from the time the document was submitted to complete their check.

The Supreme Court holds a virtual hearing on October 1, 2020. Photo: JusticiaTV, Vivo.

In the meantime, the referendum proceeded to the Supreme Court in early October, which ruled in a vote of 6 to 5 that the referendum was constitutional and could proceed. Notably, however, the Court modified the verbiage in an 8 to 3 vote to read that investigations could be brought against “political actors,” not “ex-presidents. The judges voted to “neutralize and simplify” the wording, writes Animal Político. The language specifically changed from President López Obrador’s version, which read:

“Está de acuerdo o no con que las autoridades competentes con apego a las leyes y procedimientos aplicables, investiguen y en su caso sancionen la presunta comisión de delitos por parte de los expresidentes Carlos Salinas, Ernesto Zedillo, Vicente Fox, Felipe Calderón y Enrique Peña Nieto, antes, durante y después de sus respectivas gestiones.”

The version approved by the SCJN now reads:

“Estás de acuerdo o no en que se lleven a cabo las acciones pertinentes con apego al marco constitucional y legal para emprender un proceso de esclarecimiento de las decisiones políticas tomadas en los años pasados por los actores políticos encaminado a garantizar la justicia y los derechos de las posibles víctimas”

The final step in the referendum’s approval process will be held in June 2021 when the plebiscite, as it is technically called, will be put before the public for a vote. This will coincide with the midterm congressional elections. Writes The Guardian, President López Obrador “wants ‘the people’ to give the green light to any legal proceedings against the country’s former presidents.”

AMLO’s Progress on Corruption

President López Obrador made combatting and uprooting corruption in Mexico one of his major political platforms and election promises. His first year in office was rather quiet in terms of concrete action against corruption. In December 2019, however, one of the first big cases of corruption was unveiled with the arrest and extradition of former Secretary of Public Security Genaro García Luna in December 2019. García Luna faces four counts of conspiracy to traffic cocaine and making false statements, charges that he pleaded not guilty to in October 2020.

Then, in July 2020, two more high-profile cases of corruption came to fruition. This includes a case of corruption, embezzlement, and financial irregularities against the former governor of the State of Chihuahua, César Duarte. Additionally, the former CEO of Petróleos Mexicanos (PEMEX), Emilio Lozoya, was also extradited to Mexico from Spain to face similar charges of corruption, tax fraud, bribery, and money laundering.

In September 2020, another case broke involving seven government officials who are accused of accepting bribes from federal police officers. The accusations allege that more than 2.5 million pesos were illegally diverted from federal funds through money laundering between 2013 and 2017.

Then, on October 16, 2020, Mexican were again reminded of the systemic corruption ingrained in their government when the former head of the Secretary of Defense (Secretaría de la Defensa Nacional, SEDENA), Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda, was arrested in Los Angeles. He faces charges in Mexico of ties to organized crime and drug trafficking. Read more about that story here.

Sources:

“Former Mexican Secretary of Public Security arrested in Texas.” Justice in Mexico. December 19, 2019.

“López Obrador administration secures two high-profile cases of corruption.” Justice in Mexico. July 14, 2020.

Agren, David. “Mexico’s Amlo proposes referendum on prosecuting country’s ex-presidents.” The Guardian. September 15, 2020.

Barajas, Abel. “Piden amparo siete exfuncionarios por desvíos en Policía Federal.” El Diaro. September 21, 2020.

“El Senado envía al INE 2 solicitudes de consulta ciudadana para poder enjuiciar a expresidentes.” Sin Embargo. September 22, 2020.

“Corte aprueba consulta ciudadana pero saca a expresidentes de la boleta.” Animal Político. October 1, 2020.

Marín, Carlos. “Fallo y reacción incomprensibles.” Milenio. October 5, 2020.

Durán, Raúl. “Juez Cogan suspende audiencia de García Luna por ruido de reporteros mexicanos.” Debate. October 7, 2020.

“Mexico’s ex-security chief pleads not guilty to drug charges.” The Associated Press. October 7, 2020.

“¿Avalarán mexicanos propuesta de AMLO para enjuiciar expresidentes?” El Nuevo Siglo. October 10, 2020.

McDonnell, Patrick J. “Mexico stunned by L.A. arrest of former defense chief allegedly on drug cartel’s payroll.” Los Angeles Times. October 16, 2020.

“Former Mexican Defense Minister Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda Arrested by U.S. Officials.” Justice in Mexico. October 19, 2020.

INE denies México Libre’s application to form political party

Margarita Zavala and former President Felipe Calderón. Photo: Mexico Daily News.

09/15/20 (written by kheinle) — Mexico’s National Electoral Institute (Instituto Nacional Electoral, INE) made waves in early September when it denied the formation of a new political party. Former Mexican President Felipe Calderón (2006-2012) and his wife, Margarita Zavala, had applied to the INE to launch México Libre (or Free Mexico). The INE rejected the application four votes in favor and seven against.  

México Libre

The timing of the INE’s ruling is part of the reason this story has made headlines, not just because of the party’s high-profile leaders. With Mexico’s 2021 mid-term elections less than one year away, the ruling could jeopardize México Libre’s ability to participate. As such, Zavala and Calderón said that they would immediately contest the INE’s decision, elevating their case to the Federal Electoral Tribunal (Tribunal Electoral del Poder Judicial de la Federación, TEPJF).

Reactions to the INE’s Decision

INE President Lorenzo Córdova explained the decision, saying that there were concerns about México Libre’s funding. He specifically pointed to 8.2% of the proposed party’s reported resources, calling it “opaque money.” The INE had previously fined México Libre 2.7 million pesos for what they found to be financial irregularities pertaining to donations received.

Former President Calderón and his partner, Zavala, however, immediately rejected the INE’s decision “You’re lying, Lorenzo Córdova,” tweeted Calderón. “Each and every one of our donors is perfectly identified. You know it, you hid it. It’s a day of shame for you, for INE and for the memory of Arnaldo, who would be ashamed of your decision,” he wrote (translation by Mexico Daily News). Arnaldo is a reference to Córdova’s late father, a well-known academic and former politician. Calderón and Zavala, the latter of whom is actually the leader of México Libre and is also a politician, also clarified that all of México Libre’s donors were identified. This included the individuals in question who collectively donated just over one million pesos to México Libre through the internet platform Clip.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador is seen here at his ranch in Chiapas responding through social media to the INE’s decision. Photo: Mexico Daily News.

Still, current President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (2018-2024) applauded the decision, saying it was a “win” for the Mexican people. He also took a jab at Calderón, with whom he has publicly quarreled since being rival presidential candidates in 2006. López Obrador suggested the former president should appeal the INE’s ruling to “his friends” in Washington D.C., a reference to the Organization of American States. He continued, saying that Calderón should lean on those who helped him “steal” the presidency if he wants to do it again. Zavala fired back, saying “With you [as president], democracy loses [and] Mexico loses.”

The Beginnings of México Libre

Zavala initially proposed México Libre’s creation back in January 2019 with the intent of it being a centrist right party. She stressed that it would not be a rebranding of the National Action Party (Partido de Acción Nacional, PAN), the party under which former President Calderón was elected. Rather, México Libre would be a party for the people, for the everyday Mexican – a party that is not an “extreme.” Writes Mexico News Daily, partially quoting Zavala’s explanation, “México Libre is intended to generate political participation and provide an alternative for like-minded individuals to organize, deliberate, and give themselves heart and soul to the reconstruction of Mexico.”

Mexico’s Political System

Mexico’s democracy has quite a few political parties, though it is largely dominated by four: the Institutional Revolutionary Party (Partido Revolucionario Institucional , PRI), the National Action Party (Partido de Acción Nacional, PAN), the Democratic Revolution Party (Partido de la Revolución Democrática, PRD), and the National Regeneration Movement (Movimiento Regeneración Nacional, MORENA). Adding another party, México Libre, to the mix would seemingly add another option to represent the political will of Mexicans. However, democracies are built on far more than just the number of parties in the system. Considering other factors and variables that make up democratic systems, like rule of law, judicial systems, and elections, Mexico is a “flawed democracy,” according to the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU).

A “Flawed Democracy”

The EIU’s annual Democracy Index that was released in January 2020 looked at the state of democracies worldwide in 2019. The report focused on 165 independent states and two territories, categorizing them on their electoral process and pluralism, functioning of the government, political participation, political culture, and civil liberties. The EIU determined that Mexico ranked 73rd on the list of 167 countries with an overall score of 6.09 out of 10.00 (with 10.00 being the ideal democracy). Only three countries – Papua New Guinea, Hong Kong, and Singapore – separated Mexico from being deemed a “hybrid regime.” Mexico’s overall score has steadily declined year after year since 2010, dropping from 6.93 in 2010 to 6.09 in 2019.

The INE hosted a vote on September 4, 2020, on México Libre.

The report defined “flawed democracies” as countries that “have free and fair elections and, even if there are problems…, basic liberties are respected. However, there are significant weaknesses in other aspects of democracy, including problems in governance, an underdeveloped political culture and low levels of political participation.” This aligns with the results of the indicators, which showed Mexico scoring the highest on electoral process and pluralism (7.83 out of 10.00) and the lowest on political culture (3.13 out of 10.00).

Democracy in Latin America

Latin America as a whole did not fare much better than Mexico in 2019.  “Latin America was the worst-performing region in 2019,” the EIU reports, “recording a fall of 0.11 points in its average regional score compared with 2018, to 6.13.” Mexico ranked 16th lowest out of 23 countries in the region, scoring only higher than Honduras (5.42 overall score), Guatemala (5.26), Bolivia (4.84), Haiti (4.57), Nicaragua (3.55), Venezuela (2.88), and Cuba (2.84). Only three nations in the region were considered “full democracies” (Uruguay, Costa Rica, and Chile), whereas the majority of the region’s 23 countries are considered “flawed democracies.”

For more information on the Democracy Index, check out the report here.

Sources:

“Zavala descarta que ‘México Libre’ sea el nuevo Morena,” Milenio, January 21, 2019.

“Former candidate, ex-president’s wife unveils new political party,” Mexico News Daily, January 22, 2019.

“Democracy Index 2019: A year of democratic setbacks and popular protests.” The Economist. January 2020.

Web page, “México Libre,” Facebook, Posted August 21, 2020.

Ariadna García, “Revés a Calderón y Zavala: INE niega registro a México Libre,” El Universal, September 4, 2020.

“México Libre: ¿Por qué el INE le negó el registro como partido?” El Financiero, September 5, 2020.

Pedro Villa y Caña and Horacio Jiménez, “Así ha sido el enfrentamiento de AMLO con Zavala y Calderón por México Libre,” El Universal, September 6, 2020.

“Electoral institute rejects new political party over ‘unidentified’ funding,” Mexico News Daily, September 7, 2020.

Femicides hit record high as protests continue

Protestors in the famed National Palace in Mexico City during a demonstration in August to support calls for justice, accountability, and protections for women. Photo: Edgard Garrido, Reuters.

08/31/20 (written by kheinle) — Femicides continue to increase in Mexico, registering their highest monthly total on record. According to data from Mexico’s National Public Security System (Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Pública, SNSP), 101 cases were reported in June. This brought the total for the first six months of the year to 566. This comes on the heels of a 130% increase in cases of femicides documented from 2015 to 2019.

Mexico has long grappled with the problem of targeted killings of women. Nearly half (45%) of all women in Mexico reported being victims of violence at the hands of their partner, according to a 2018 survey by Mexico’s National Institute of Statistics and Geography (Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Geografía e Informática, INEGI). More recently, another 18% specified that they were victims of physical abuse. Since the pandemic began in March 2020, the National Network of Shelters, a group that supports at risk women and children, reported an 80% increase in calls and a 50% increase in the number of women and children to their shelters.

The Government’s Mixed Response

With the rise in femicide cases, there has been increased attention from national and international critics imploring the Mexican government to step up its efforts. However, the reaction from President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and his administration is mixed.

The Right to Demonstrate

On the one hand, the administration is at least superficially backing women’s rights and the public’s constitutional right to protest in support of protections for women. For example, following several demonstrations in Mexico City and León, Guanajuato in August, the president used his platform to denounce efforts to silence the public. He vocally supported the protestors’ right to protest, but urged them to do so peacefully. “We have to respect the right to dissent and the freedom to protest, to respect and to be tolerant, but more than anything to respect [the right],” he said. “There should not have to be repression.” [Author’s translation]. He then stressed upon demonstrators to protest and gather non-violently, drawing on non-violent icons like Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. to drive home his point.

A protestor in Mexico City.
Photo: Pedro Pardo, AFP / Getty Images.

An Insufficient Response

Yet President López Obrador has also come under fire for what protestors have long argued has been his insufficient response to the inequities that women face. In 2020, there have been numerous public protests denouncing the government’s ineffective and inadequate response to femicides. Critics argue that the president is dismissive of both the femicides and protests that have ensued this past year. He often undermines the severity of the issue, attributing the violence to a loss of values and morality, notes media reports. In fact, he recently claimed that “Mexican women have never been as protected as now,” a point against which demonstrators continue to push back.

Reports also show the López Obrador administration proposing to cut funding to women’s shelters in July of this year, the same shelters that support the women facing femicide, domestic violence, and other targeted violence. As The Guardian reports, in early July, “the government approved a 65% budget cut for the federal women’s institute, and the president has also proposed to withdraw state funding for women’s shelters operated by NGOs, suggesting that women fleeing violence could instead be given a cash payment.”

Additional Resources

Justice in Mexico has looked extensively at femicides in Mexico, most recently as part of its publication, “Organized Crime and Violence in Mexico: Special Report 2020.” This also includes an analysis on the topic of international conventions to which Mexico is a signatory that are in place to protect women. For a breakdown of the legal context of femicide – what it is and what it is not – check out this post. For an overview on the civil unrest and protests in support of women’s rights and safety, there are also several write ups from March and July of this year. Finally, Justice in Mexico looked at the disproportionate dangers women face during the ongoing global pandemic, resulting in a rise in cases of domestic violence resulting from the “Stay Home” initiative.

We will continue to monitor and analyze the trends relating to femicide, its impact on women, and the society’s response. 

Sources:

“Women Voice Ire, Fear as Femicides Continue to Rise in Mexico,” Justice in Mexico, March 10, 2020.”

Gatitos Contra la Desigualdad, “Feminicidio: una pandemia invisible,” April 24, 2020.

Oscar Lopez, “Mexico City mayor promises to eradicate violence against women,” Reuters, July 9, 2020.

David Agren, “Femicides rise in Mexico as president cuts budgets of women’s shelters,” The Guardian, July 22, 2020.

Laura Calderón et al, “Organized Crime and Violence in Mexico: Special Report 2020,” Justice in Mexico, July 30, 2020.

“Mujeres y policías chocan en Ciudad de México en una marcha contra el machismo,” La Oferta, August 16, 2020.

“Resultan lesionadas tres personas en marcha feminista de la CDMX,” El Universal, August 16, 2020.

Pedro Villa y Caña, “Pide AMLO respetar derecho a manifestaciones de mujeres en León,” El Universal, August 24, 2020.

“Jessica, Marcela, Danna y Fernanda, 4 feminicidios que sacuden a México,” El Universal, August 27, 2020.

“La niña también traía tatuajes por todos lados”, dice fiscal de BC sobre feminicidio de Danna,” Animal Político, August 27, 2020.

Mexican kingpin “El Marro” arrested in Guanajuato

08/05/20 (written by kheinle) – One of Mexico’s most wanted cartel leaders, José Antonio Yépez Ortíz, “El Marro,” was arrested on Sunday, August 2 in Guanajuato. El Marro is the alleged leader of the Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel (Cártel de Santa Rosa de Lima, CSRL).

El Marro’s Arrest

El Marro’s arrest on Sunday, August 2. Photo: Guanajuato State Attorney General’s Office.

The raid that brought El Marro down was a show of force from the Mexican government. Over 1,000 state security forces, hundreds of soldiers, unmanned drones, and two fully-manned helicopters were all deployed to the area, both to arrest El Marro, as well as to maintain peace on the ground. The Yucatan Times reports that the government tracked the cartel boss after receiving a tip about the cartel boss’ movements. Officials had narrowed their search down to four identified homes in which El Marro frequented. Mexican Defense Secretary Luis Cresencio Sandoval said they obtained an arrest warrant based on the information gleaned from learning that El Marro never spent more than one night in a location. They also had insight on the location of a truck and food delivery vehicle that were connected to the scene. The operation comes just one month after Mexican officials arrested El Marro’s mother and sister for their alleged roles in the Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel’s financial operations.

The Government Reacts

The López Obrador administration was quick to publicize the El Marro’s arrest. This goes against what the president promised he would avoid, which was “to conduct arrests as public spectacles” like his predecessors had done, writes The New York Times. “It shows how desperate [President López Obrador] is to show he is doing something. The fact is he just did something that he said we would never do,” commented Dr. David Shirk, Director of Justice in Mexico. “It’s the same old playbook as before.” It is also interesting coming on the heels of the administration’s monumental failure in October 2019 to arrest Ovidio Guzmán Loera, the son of Mexico’s most notorious kingpin, Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán. Perhaps the government’s show of force against El Marro was to ensure a similar catch-and-release did not happen again.

Following El Marro’s arrest, police secured the area and surrounding locales to help deter such backlash of violence. They also enhanced their security presence in bordering states, such as neighboring Querétaro that lies just to the east of Guanajuato. Querétaro State Police (Policía Estatal) released a statement saying their increased presence along the connecting roadways is to “maintain peace and social order.”

Violence in Guanajuato

Map of Mexico with Guanajuato highlighted. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

The CSRL has been in a bloody turf battle with the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (Cártel de Jalisco Nueva Generación, CJNG). The bitter rivalry has driven Guanajuato to be one of the most violent states in Mexico. As Justice in Mexico noted in its recent report, “Organized Crime and Violence in Mexico: 2020 Special Report,” Guanajuato had the highest number of organized crime-related homicides among states in 2019 with 2,673 cases, according to data from Reforma. In June 2019, Guanajuato State Governor Diego Sinhue Rodríguez Vallejo and Mexican officials agreed to enact “Golpe de Timón,” an operation to bolster public security. Violence continued, however, through the end of 2019 and into 2020. In the first half of this year alone, more than 1,725 homicides were registered in the Guanajuato, according to data from Mexico’s National Public Security System (Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Pública, SNSP).

Still, some are quick to acknowledge the impact of collaborative security operations, like Golpe de Timón, in bringing down El Marro. U.S. Ambassador Christopher Landau lauded the arrest via Twitter, posting, “Excellent news to start this Sunday: the capture of the criminal El Marro in Guanajuato. Criminals think they are so dynamic and smart, but in the end the good guys will always win.” Time will tell if the removal of the cartel’s leader will quell violence in Guanajuato or if it will have the “fantasia effect” and lead to more infighting within the Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel, splintering among factions, increased turf battles, and ultimately more insecurity.

Sources:

“The Capture and Release of Ovidio Guzmán in Culiacán, Sinaloa,” Justice in Mexico, November 5, 2019.

Secretariado Ejecutivo del Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Publica, “Incidencia delictiva del Fuero Comun,” Gobierno de Mexico, June 30, 2020.

“Tension and Violence Rise in Guanajuato Following Arrests of Cartel Leader’s Mother,” Justice in Mexico, June 30, 2020.

Laura Calderon et al., “Organized Crime and Violence in Mexico: 2020 Special Report,” Justice in Mexico, July 31, 2020.

“Ejecutómetro,” Grúpo Reforma, accessed July 31, 2020.

Azam Ahmed, “Mexico Seizes Crime Boss El Marro, Under Pressure to Cut Violence,” The New York Times, August 2, 2020.

Emmanuel Rincón, “Refuerzan seguridad en Querétaro tras captura de ‘El Marro,’” Excélsior, August 2, 2020.

Kevin Sieff, “Mexico arrests Santa Rosa de Lima cartel chief ‘El Marro,’” Washington Post, August 2, 2020.

“Captura de ‘El Marro’ es resultado del pacto entre Diego Sinhue y AMLO,” La Silla Rota, August 4, 2020.

Reuters, “El Marro ‘never slept two nights in the same place,’” The Yucatan Times, August 4, 2020.

“Homicidios en Guanajuato, sin relación con captura de ‘El Marro;” AMLO,” La Jornada, August 4, 2020.

López Obrador administration secures two high-profile cases of corruption

07/14/20 (written by kheinle) – In the first week of July, the López Obrador administration netted two high-profile cases of corruption. One case includes the former governor of Chihuahua, César Duarte. The other involves the former CEO of Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex). Both suspects will be extradited back to Mexico where they face charges of corruption, among other counts.

Ex-Governor Duarte

Former Governor César Duarte. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Former Governor Duarte was arrested in Miami, Florida on Wednesday, July 8. The Mexican government sought his extradition on corruption charges stemming from an audit of the Duarte administration’s finances. The audit led officials to question “the possible diversion of the equivalent of about $320 million [USD] in government funds in 2016, when Duarte was governor,” writes The Associated Press. According to official documents, there was “significant irregularities” in the administration’s spending. Along with the help of some of his staff, Duarte “embezzled state funds for the benefit of himself and his associates,” the court filings read. He also faces charges of illegal campaign financing. He served as governor of Chihuahua from 2010 to 2016.

Chihuahua Judge María Alejandra Ramos Durán ordered Duarte’s arrest in October 2019 to face said charges. Previous requests had also been made, the first one coming in March 2017 from Chihuahua’s District Attorney. Animal Político writes that since the initial request, Duarte was considered a fugitive and placed on Interpol’s radar. At that time, Duarte was already residing in the United States, where he had swiftly relocated in November 2016 following his time in office. He then proceeded to overstay his temporary six-month visa in the United States. According to Chihuahua Governor Javier Corral Jurado, in the past five years, Duarte amassed more than 50 properties in Florida, New Mexico, and Texas, among others.

The U.S. Justice Department and U.S. Marshals led the effort to capture Duarte. Following the arrest, Santiago Nieto, the director of Mexico’s Treasury’s Financial Intelligence Unit (Unidad de Inteligencia Financiera, UFI), commented, “No one is above the law.” Duarte was arraigned in U.S. court on July 10.

Former Head of PEMEX

One week prior to Governor Duarte’s arrest, Spain approved the extradition of Emilio Lozoya. the former CEO of Petróleos Mexicanos (PEMEX). Lozoya ran Pemez – Mexico’s state-owned petroleum company – from 2012 to 2016. The suit against Lozoya, which was opened in May 2019, was the first high-profile case of corruption that President Andrés Manuel López Obrador launched after taking office six-months prior. Spanish officials arrested Lozoya in southern Spain in February 2020. 

Former Pemex CEO Emilio Lozoya and then Governor of the State of México Enrique Peña Nieto at the World Economic Forum on Latin America in 2010. Photo: Flickr.

The former CEO faces charges of corruption, tax fraud, bribery, and money laundering. Some of his alleged crimes tie in with the corruption scandal that unfolded with Brazilian construction company Odebrecht. According to the Associated Press, “The court documents say Oderbrecht allegedly offered [Lozoya] $6 million [USD] in bribes to get a contract for renovating an old oil refinery. The Brazilian firm allegedly wound up paying him $5 million.” However, the amount received may be significantly higher, according to conflicting media reports. Some sources say that Lozoya “allegedly took more than $10 [million] in bribes from Odebrecht starting in March 2012.” There are also allegations that Lozoya participated in bribery and money laundering with a Mexican fertilizer plant that Pemex purchased at a rate higher than market value.

Although he continues to deny wrongdoing, Lozoya did agree to cooperate with Mexican officials in the investigation. This does not come as a surprise to some, notesThe Associated Press. “…Many in Mexico had expected Lozoya might implicate others in the former ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party, the PRI, perhaps including former [P]resident Enrique Peña Nieto…” Lozoya had a close working relationship with President Peña Nieto (2012-2018), who himself had faced serious criticism for his administration’s fledgling efforts to curtail corruption.

Capacity to Combat Corruption (CCC) Index 2020

Duarte’s and Lozoya’s arrests come on the heels of a report co-published in June by the Americas Society / Council of the Americas and the consultancy firm, Control Risks. The report, “The Capacity to Combat Corruption (CCC) Index 2020,” looks at Latin American countries’ capacity and capability to ‘detect, punish, and prevent corruption.’” The authors criticize President López Obrador for failing combat corruption despite campaign promises to do so. Read more about that report and its critical findings here.

Still, the recent arrests and agreed upon extraditions in July 2020 are two important victories for the López Obrador administration.

Sources:

Harrup, Anthony and Juan Montes. “Mexican Investigators File Corruption Charges Against Pemex Ex-CEO.” The Wall Street Journal. May 27, 2019.

“Efforts to Combat Corruption in Mexico Exemplify the Depth of the Problem.” Justice in Mexico. June 11, 2019.

Simon, Roberto and Geert Aalbers. “The Capacity to Combat Corruption (CCC) Index 2020.” Americas Socity / Council of the Americas and Control Risks. June 8, 2020.

“Corruption in Mexico Persists Despite Campaign Promises.” Justice in Mexico. June 24, 2020.

“Extreme corruption on charge sheet of Mexico’s ex-oil chief.” The Associated Press. July 6, 2020.

“Spain court approves extradition of Mexico’s former oil chief.” Al Jazeera. July 6, 2020.

“Ex-Mexico governor arrested in Miami on extradition request.” The Associated Press. July 8, 2020.

“César Duarte acumuló 50 propiedades en tres estados de EU, indica Corral.” Animal Político. July 9, 2020.

“César Duarte comparece mañana a través de video en Miami.” El Universal. July 9, 2020.