Apparently out of all the criticism — outright political flak, I’d say — President Enrique Peña Nieto is shielding against, is the fact that he was “defending” the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) governors he proudly promoted three years ago in a popular television talk show as “the new face of the PRI.”
On Monday President Peña Nieto was clearly specific that he’s not defending the allegedly corrupt governors of the states of Chihuahua, Quintana Roo and Veracruz (three states the almighty PRI lost to the National Action Party (PAN) in the June 5 election).
When seeing that this notorious trio of governors, namely César Duarte of Chihuahua, Roberto Borge of Quintana Roo and Javier Duarte of Veracruz, were passing state legislation to shield themselves of corruption charges once they leave office, the president ordered the Attorney General’s Office to sue them before the Supreme Court on the grounds that they were violating the recently implemented National Anti-Corruption System and that “no institution and no public servant, regardless of the branch of government they work for, can be above the law.”
The suit came after the governors of Veracruz and Quintana Roo were in the process of having their respective state congress issue a law shielding them from criminal investigations.
By the time the president reacted, however, Javier Duarte of the state of Chihuahua had already issued a “protection law” in which he could not be brought to trial on corruption charges. The charges against the Chihuahua state government will be issued later, as it is a case in which the law has already been approved by the state congress and there has to be a trial to cancel it.
During the Monday press conference presidential spokesman Eduardo Sánchez was careful not to name names but stated that the president was acting this way because “this is what the citizens demand and what the State is obliged to comply with.”
Spokesman Sánchez explained that all appointments that the state governor for Quintana Roo and Veracruz make to their anti-corruption panel will be voided once the Supreme Court determines that they are anti-constitutional.
“It’s a warning to these and all states that they lack the authority to create their own anti-corruption systems,” Sánchez said.
There was an immediate reaction from the governors to the suit filed before the Supreme Court. In Veracruz, Gov. Cesar Duarte immediately ordered the state government to stop all of the anti-corruption proceedings. And in Quintana Roo, Gov. Borge denied that he was raising a protection wall to stop any potential suits in the future.
It remains to see what happens in Chihuahua, where it will take a Supreme Court ruling to curtail what has already been done in the state congress to shield César Duarte when he leaves office.
The president’s reaction to the attacks against him for shielding crooked governors — these three are but the tip of the iceberg as the most notorious of past governors, Coahuila state’s Humberto Moreira, faces no charges and boasts full protection from the president — is seen as a palliative by critics from business organizations and political parties, but in all cases seen that Peña Nieto is reading the general mood of the nation and his move “is a step in the right direction,” as several political and business leaders stated.
There is no question to the fact that the Supreme Court will uphold the National Anti-Corruption System Law just approved by both houses of Congress. But for Peña Nieto, the political damage from the past June 5 election is done, and perhaps his reaction to the turmoil his own appointed people have created is too little, too late.
The political damage is done!