The News
Saturday 13 of July 2024

Corruption? What’s that?

Emilio Lozoya, former general director of Pemex. Photo: Notimex/Remy Steinegger-Wef
Emilio Lozoya, former general director of Pemex. Photo: Notimex/Remy Steinegger-Wef
Any government official who claims he or she is honest is laughed out in Mexico

Former Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex) CEO Emilio Lozoya Austin tried his best at a press conference to clean up his name. Reporters listened to him but he had no credibility to his self-defense allegations.

But in conclusion, the real problem with corruption in Mexico is not Lozoya, or the countless bunches of corrupt politicos, but the Attorney General who has no will to investigate even the obvious.

Lozoya was accused in Brazil by former Odebrecht Construction Company executives of having taken over $10 million in bribes to promote Odebrecht contracts, which he handily did. He claimed also slander from the Oderbrecht executives and very well documented articles published in the Mexican press.

But for the general public, any government official who claims he or she is honest is laughed out. In Mexico, it is clear to everyone that there is no such thing as an uncorrupt politician; everyone knows that they are masters — like Lozoya — at denying their crooked actions.

The real problem with the Lozoya case — in which it was implied that at least five of those $10 million went to the Enrique Peña Nieto electoral campaign — is that this information about millionaire money transfers does not come from the Mexican Attorney General but from abroad. The accusations against Lozoya stem not only from the Brazilian anti-corruption czar but from the U.S. State Department as well.

Accusations like the one Lozoya claims to be victim of have been there in the past and Mexicans are ready to listen to new ones, when they are revealed abroad.

Let me briefly tell you about an old case. On May 30, 1984, muckraking journalist Manuel Buedía was gunned down — from the back — by a federal agent outside his office on Insurgentes Avenue in Mexico City. The most evident reason for execution was that he had revealed to U.S. syndicated Jack Anderson — through Anderson’s contact in Mexico, Dale Van Atta — that then-President Miguel de la Madrid had made a $162 million transfer to Lichtenstein.

Jack Anderson ran the news in his then-powerful column right at the moment President De la Madrid arrived in Washington for an official visit. The revelation of the transfer was lethal to the success of the visit and even the Washington Post editor and owner Katharine Graham talked to De la Madrid who of course, denied Anderson’s accusations.

Two weeks later after De la Madrid returned to Mexico City, a gunman pumped lead into Buendía’s back.

Those are the old days of course, and now, like back then, corruption will be well hidden particularly because it is virtually impossible to prove in a court of law the movements of money in fiscal paradises, which are there not only to avoid taxes but also to safeguard ill-gotten funds.

Unfortunately, Emilio Lozoya Austin is a minor cat and no longer in an official post, but that does not mean he was clean. During elections back in 2012, he was part of the “new Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI)” out of which several now former governors are in jail or on the lam for corruption.

For most analysts, the real problem is that in Mexico the PRI Congress has refused to implement the National Anti-corruption System (SNA) by not naming a czar to lead it.

Scholar and critic Lorenzo Meyer says that in the Odebrecht-Lozoya case the president’s men in Congress are stalling the appointment of a czar on purpose with a well-known tactic:
“What it’s all about is to prolong time, God knows ’till when, but in Mexican public opinion it is obvious that they are trying to slap us with the old Mexican political prescription to postpone over and over to see if the scandal dilutes itself with time.”

The Odebrecht case has already sent officials to jail in nations like Brazil, Peru and Guatemala where the Odebrecht “tips” (as Brzilians call bribery payoffs) have gotten more response. If it also happened in Mexico, as stated abroad, why hasn’t anyone been charged here?

Of course those involved play the game of denial as Emilio Lozoya is doing:
“I was never corrupted. Whatever has happened in other parts of the world, I find out about because I read it in the press.” Of course nobody believes him.

The root problem in all of this is that in other nations, the anti-corruption officials are independent and autonomous, while in Mexico it is clear beyond a doubt that nothing moves without the president’s approval, and for sure, he’s not going to approve corruption accusations.