It has been 496 years since Spain conquered the Aztecs in 1521 and imposed a system of corrupt government in which Hernán Cortés, to begin with, was literally king of Mexico and the source of all corruption.
This system of government prevailed through the centuries, and even after the Anti-Corruption Law was passed last Wednesday night in an extraordinary session of the Mexican Senate, the one loophole for corruption remains untouched.
In short, the President of Mexico may not be accused of corruption or conflict of interest, as Article 108 of the Mexican Constitution says the President may be brought to trial under charges of treason or a common offense, whatever the latter may mean.
In short, the voice of the father of corruption in Mexico, Hernán Cortés, still rings loudly five centuries after he imposed his will over the then Aztec Empire.
The Senate’s approval by a small majority of the new Anti-Corruption Bill left many people unhappy, and it was an odd sight last Thursday seeing the leaders of the Employers Federation of Mexico (Coparmex) protesting “en masse” at the Angel of Independence Monument on Reforma Boulevard against the “watered down” version of the real Anti-Corruption Bill along with the “3 out of 3” proposal. Along with a myriad of non-government organizations, they presented 634,000 bona fide signatures by real voters to the Senate.
Those disgruntled by peaceful demonstrators said they sought for officials, ministers, Supreme Court justices, senators, deputies, leaders of unions that work for the government and public servants — as the low rank of bureaucrats is known — to present their three statements declaring their belongings, their tax return and their honest and true conflicts of interest in awarding government money to private companies. They wanted the statements to be made public and available to all Mexicans seeking information on the “3 out of 3” statements.
Well, the Institutional Revolutionary (PRI) and Green Party (PVEM) factions in the Senate, who garnered the vote majority, decided to exempt the president from being subject to the law, as well as not making these documents public, because they fear they might fall prey to organized crime greed. Wow!
But let’s get down to basics and take a look at the key parts of the Anti-Corruption Law now approved by both houses of Congress.
—The National Anti-Corruption System will be integrated by a coordinating committee, a National Council for Public Ethics and a Citizens Participation Committee. The three will coordinate to carry out policies to prevent, correct and/or combat corruption and promote public integrity. It will include the President of the Republic, the head of the Supreme Court, the presidents of both houses of Congress, the heads of autonomous federal government organizations, the Superior Federation Auditor, the president of the Federal Court for Administrative Justice, the state governors and the members of the Committee for Citizen Participation.
—The Federal Auditing Agency (ASF) will investigate administrative wrongdoings as well as corruption accusations.
—All proceedings will now be carried out in real time. Usually nowadays by the time a complaint gets to the ASF, it is two years later. Speediness will change proceedings.
—The ASF will be autonomous to make accusations and take acts of corruption to court.
—The ASF’s top official will be appointed by the president and ratified by the Senate.
—The ASF will investigate the use given by states of federal resources.
—The regulations stemming out of this constitutional reform will determine cases and circumstances in which officials can be sanctioned for the crime of illicit enrichment.
—The new reform will deeply affect private sector government contractors. For all companies and individuals found guilty of participating in acts of corruption, the court can suspend business activities or outright put companies or individuals out of business.
—All auditors will be appointed by the Chamber of Deputies with a two-thirds majority vote.
The problem businessmen see in this newly approved constitutional reform is that it exempts the president from punishment and, as put by Senator Manuel Bartlett of the Labor Party during Tuesday’s debate, “in government, the president is the source of all corruption. Don’t play dumb, fellow Senators. You know this.”
Making the president accountable is a must for a real Anti-Corruption Law to be fair to all, but not this time. It does not kill Hernán Cortés’s corruption legacy.
Yet for many people, what both houses of Congress approved is a great leap forward in doing away with an attitude that makes those in government rich, while it impoverishes the large masses. And let’s not forget that due to corruption, 54 percent of Mexicans live at the poverty level.