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Opinion
Thérèse Margolis
Thérèse Margolis The Lady Doth Protest Too Much The fact that Moreira was visited by a consulate representative while in prison is nothing out of the ordinary. In fact, it is common procedure
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On Wednesday, the Foreign Relations Secretariat (SRE) issued a press release stating that the Mexican Embassy in Madrid categorically denied having taken any extraordinary measures to win the release of Humberto Moreira Valdés, former head of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and former governor of the state of Coahuila, who was detained on arrival at Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas Airport on Jan. 15 and charged with purported corruption activities related to financial crimes.

The arrest, which was ordered by Spain’s National Court on request of U.S. federal prosecutors in Texas on suspicion of money laundering, embezzlement, bribery and criminal association, was based on allegations that Moreira held at least three bank accounts under his name in Spain, and had received money transfers and cash payments to the tune of more than 200,000 euros while living in Barcelona these last two years.

Moreira, who could have faced up to six years in prison, emphatically denied the accusations and the case proceeded through the Spanish justice system, with prosecutors deciding that there was no conclusive evidence to prove his guilt.

Moreira has been released and he and his family have since left Spain while the investigation of the misappropriation of state funds continues against several other politicians and officials from Coahuila.

But on Monday, allegations surfaced in a number of Mexican and international media claiming that the Mexican Embassy in Madrid, acting on behalf of the president’s office, had gone above and beyond the rendering of normal consular services to try to exonerate Moreira and have charges against him dropped.

These allegations quite logically enraged Mexican authorities, who were painted as having shown favoritism toward Moreira, who is a close friend of President Enrique Peña Nieto, by unduly pressuring Spanish authorities to drop the investigation.

But what the media reports do not bother to mention is that the Mexican Consulate traditionally assists Mexican nationals charged and jailed overseas, as do most consulate offices around the world, providing guidance and ensuring that the citizens’ rights are not violated.

The fact that Moreira was visited by a consulate representative while in prison is nothing out of the ordinary. In fact, it is common procedure. That is a consulate’s job.

Nor is it unusual for a consulate office to provide a list of private attorneys – which the Mexican Consulate office in Spain did – and to assist the imprisoned party to hire legal consult at their own expense – which, again, is what happened in the case of Moreira.

If there were any abnormalities involved in Moreira’s treatment while he was in jail, it was on the part of the Spanish authorities, who did not bother to inform the Mexican Embassy of Moreira’s arrest, as is required by the Vienna Convention.

The consulate learned of the arrest through Spanish media websites, and was, quite understandably, enraged at the violation of Moreira’s fundamental rights.

Worse yet, Spanish judicial authorities refused outright to provide the Mexican diplomats with information on the case, again in violation of international treaties.

All of this was laid out plainly in the SRE press bulletin, which stressed that Mexico in no way tried to intervene inappropriately into the Moreira investigation and is “respectful of the judicial procedures and decisions of other countries.”

It seems – thanks once again to overblown media hype and unvetted sources – what should have been a page-six news story ended up on page one with blatant bias against the Mexican Foreign Relations Secretariat.

Is Moreira guilty? That is not a question for the media to decide.

The case is still being investigated, and while Moreira’s alleged involvement in the misappropriation of public funds has for now been found to lack sufficient evidence, the inquiry is certain to reveal new evidence that may or may not incriminate him.

In the meantime, the SRE should not have to be issuing statements justifying its normal activities.

It is time for the press to step back from its self-endowed podium of judge, jury and executioner and, as the saying goes, let the wheels of justice turn slowly but grind exceedingly fine.

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