Monday, December 4, 2017

Mexico’s Government Is Blocking Its Own Anti-Corruption Drive, Commissioners Say

Posted by El Profe for Borderland Beat from NY Times
President Enrique Peña Nieto touring an area hit by an earthquake in September. Mr. Peña Nieto agreed to the creation of an anti-corruption commission last year, but its members say they have been stymied. Credit Cesar Rodriguez/Bloomberg  

 
MEXICO CITY — Mexico’s landmark anti-corruption drive, inaugurated by President Enrique Peña Nieto under intense pressure to answer the scandals jolting his administration, is being blocked by the government’s refusal to cooperate on some of the biggest cases facing the nation, according to members of the commission coordinating the effort.

Attempts to look into the use of government surveillance technology against civilians, the embezzlement of tens of millions of dollars through public universities and allegations of widespread bribery to win construction contracts have all been thwarted, commission members say.

Marred by scandals that have embroiled his administration, his allies and even his own family, Mr. Peña Nieto agreed to the creation of a broad anti-corruption system last year that was enshrined in the Constitution, a watershed moment in Mexico.

But after nine months of pushing to examine the kind of corruption that ignited public outrage and brought the new watchdog into existence, some of its most prominent members say they have been stymied every step of the way, unable to make the most basic headway.

After announcing the new system with great fanfare, they say, the government is now refusing to allow any serious investigations into its actions.

“They are panicked that maybe we will go too hard and unravel something, find individuals responsible for corrupt acts,” José Octavio López said. He worked in the administration the last time Mr. Peña Nieto’s party held the presidency, in the 1990s, and is now part of the new National Anti-Corruption System.

“They are used to appointing someone they control,” Mr. López said of the government. But when officials learned that he and others on the new commission wanted to act with impartial independence, he added, “they didn’t like that.”

The effort started more than a year ago, when advocates presented the government with hundreds of thousands of signatures backing a nationwide campaign to combat corruption. The president, facing tough questions about his administration and personal conflicts of interest, including his wife’s purchase of a multimillion-dollar custom home from a major government contractor, conceded.

In principle, regular citizens are at the helm of the new system, giving them the power to ensure that it works in the interest of the Mexican people, not the government.

But in interviews, all five members of the special citizen commission recited a long inventory of obstacles placed before them by the government.

None of the 18 judges who are supposed to oversee anti-corruption cases have been appointed by lawmakers. The prosecutor empowered under the new system to pursue investigations independently has not been named. And members of the citizen commission say they have been routinely shut out of discussions about big corruption cases.

“It is a bad joke,” said Luis Manuel Perez de Acha, a tax lawyer on the commission. “I was naïve when the system launched. I believed and had hope that it would work.”

“I know now that they are trying to sabotage everything we do,” he added.

A big part of the problem, the commission members contend, is that their power is rooted in title only. All significant decisions have to be made by a collection of seven agencies. But six of them come from different branches of government, leaving the citizen’s commission, which technically oversees the entire process, heavily outvoted.

“I’ve been given all the responsibility, with none of the power,” said Jacqueline Peschard, the president of both the citizen commission and the overall anti-corruption system.

The government strongly denies the allegations, saying that it has fully supported the commission members and that they have misinterpreted their mandate.

The citizens involved in the process are not supposed to investigate corruption, the government says. 

Rather, they are there to help set policy and coordinate the various authorities who have the legal responsibility of prosecuting crime.

But Mrs. Peschard and other members say they have been prevented from doing exactly that because information is regularly withheld from them, like when they tried to discuss the hacking scandal that has engulfed Mr. Peña Nieto’s administration this year.
Outside the attorney general’s office, activists and journalists in June protested government spying. Credit Alfredo Estrella/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Sophisticated spying technology sold to the Mexican government for the purpose of tracking terrorists and criminal networks has instead been deployed against dozens of journalists, academics, human rights lawyers and anti-corruption advocates, a potential violation of Mexican law.

But when Mrs. Peschard and others called for a simple briefing on the issue, she said she was voted down by every representative of the government agencies.

One of the representatives voting on whether to discuss the hacking scandal was Arely Gomez, the attorney general in office when the government was using the surveillance technology.

“I would say there is in fact coordination on the committee,” Mrs. Peschard said with a dry laugh. “It’s them against me.”

In a statement, Mr. Peña Nieto’s office acknowledged that any “illegal intervention of communications” is widely viewed as a pressing issue. But, it said, Mexican law does not treat spying as a “corruption crime,” so government representatives had argued that it should not be handled within the new system.

Mrs. Peschard and other commission members say they have tried, unsuccessfully, to check on other cases that have raised troubling questions for the Mexican public.

Last December, the United States Department of Justice announced that Odebrecht, the Brazilian construction behemoth accused of paying nearly $800 million in bribes to government officials across Latin America, had given about $10.5 million in “corrupt payments” to Mexican officials to win public contracts. The department said $6 million of that money had gone to a single “high-level official of a Mexican state-owned” company.

Court documents in Brazil contend that Emilio Lozoya, the former head of Mexico’s state-owned oil company and a close ally of the president, received bribes directly from Odebrecht. Mr. Lozoya helped to run Mr. Peña Nieto’s 2012 presidential campaign.

Deepening the intrigue, the government fired a Mexican prosecutor who had been looking into the use of illicit money in the president’s campaign — just days after the prosecutor said that Mr. Lozoya had secretly pressured him to be cleared of any wrongdoing.

Mrs. Peschard and other commission members said they repeatedly asked for briefings on the matter. The government denied that any such request had been made. But in separate interviews, several commission members cited letters they had sent to the attorney general’s office requesting an update on the case.

Each time, they said, they were told there could be no briefing because an investigation was underway, prompting them to wonder how they could do their jobs if sharing information about investigations was prohibited.

After consistently being blocked, Mrs. Peschard and the others decided on another approach. When local news reports revealed that nearly $200 million had been embezzled through the nation’s public universities, the commission sent requests to 99 government departments, asking for the information directly.

Only one government agency has responded so far.

In another instance, the commission tried to establish a single account to disburse money for earthquake victims — to ensure that the funds could be rigorously accounted for. Once again, it was told to stand down.

Since the commission is not technically part of the government, the president’s office says, it cannot coordinate government resources.

For many Mexicans, the new anti-corruption system — and particularly the power of citizens to coordinate it — showed that the government, when pushed hard enough, might finally combat the impunity that defines much of life in Mexico.

But many civil society leaders, including some who helped engineer the creation of the anti-corruption system, say they have fallen prey to a familiar trick: The government creates a panel to address a major issue, only to starve it of resources, inhibit its progress or ignore it.

Juan Pardinas, a chief architect of the anti-corruption system, says now that it
is “basically broken.” Brett Gundlock/Bloomberg

“The Mexican government feeds us placebos and we believe they will cure us,” said Juan Pardinas, the president of the Mexico Institute for Competitiveness and one of the chief architects of the anti-corruption system. “I drank the Kool-Aid and I passed the jar to a lot of people, believing it was a path to change.”

Mr. Pardinas has been one of the most prominent public voices fighting corruption, its corrosive effect on democratic institutions, and the lives it sometimes claims. He ultimately became a target of the spying technology purchased by the Mexican government to surveil criminals and terrorists.

“I killed myself for three years to achieve this, and it’s basically broken,” he said of the anti-corruption effort. “Well, maybe the system isn’t broken. It’s actually working perfectly to allow impunity.”

The anti-corruption drive is still missing its independent prosecutor, arguably the most important person in the entire operation. The selection has been frozen in the legislature, which was already up in arms over the president’s contentious choice for attorney general: Raúl Cervantes, a close ally of Mr. Peña Nieto and the main lawyer for his party during the 2012 campaign.

After a long battle in Congress — and news articles about properties and a Ferrari owned by Mr. Cervantes, registered outside of the capital to avoid higher taxes — his name was withdrawn.

Beyond that, many Mexican states have still not enacted the mandatory systems meant to duplicate the federal anti-corruption effort on a local level.

One of the commission members, Mr. Perez de Acha, says he has sued the states that have not set up their anti-corruption systems, which were supposed to be in place by July 19. He has also sued the Senate to force the appointment of the 18 anti-corruption judges.

“We can’t sit with our arms crossed,” he said. “We have constitutional legitimacy.”
Other commission members agreed.

“I’m not going to give up,” said one of them, Mariclaire Acosta. “There is no quick fix here.”

25 comments:

  1. Chivis confirmado muerte del hijo del mencho el fernando. Y de don chelo se dice pero la d don chelo valencia aun no hay confirmacion JAGL.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! I was researching the story but saw Otis has it covered. I prefer regional newspapers but at least the story is up....

      If anyone wants to get a story to me, just email me at the email address above right. in the subject type "Story suggestion"

      Delete
    2. Chiva, how much i'm getting paid?
      You know, that is the most impertinent part of any reporting.
      I mean, important.
      Jest kidding, I would never know where to get started.
      Thanks for all you do and I hope you get your pay doubled again this year, make the others green with envy.
      Merry Christmiss to all the reporters and commenters, even the enemy trolls help us a little bit.
      And If you want a prosperous New Year,
      that will take some more begging...

      Delete
  2. los del CJNG no le sva a gustar. Yo se los dije el mencho tiene poder pero no como muchos piensan. Y que controla y jalisco on lock. Y que quito plazas y la verga.es mejor siempre saber y decir las cosas como son lo inflaron mucho. Y repito tiene poder pero no como se piensa. Pienso que no tarda en caer. .JAGL. saludos chivis.

    ReplyDelete
  3. We are no different here in the US. Political corruption and influence by lobbyists and those special interests groups. Moreover, government intrusion from investigative reporting.
    So in the end we have a lot in common, Money , greed and political absolution and immunity.
    Guess that’s standard practice for government.

    Disappointing though that such hope for transparency continues to be met with resistance.

    E42


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  4. Any news if José Luis Gutiérrez Valencia "Don Chelo," a CJNG direct link to Mencho who was just acquitted and released from prison Nov. 24, died in a confrontation in Guadalajara?

    ReplyDelete
  5. And this just in...Breaking news.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Otis and Chivis. Please help and run for Mayor of any Mexico town. We have placed you on ballot. Only you can help. The talk is cheap. Only your action now please and prove you care.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Because the government would collapse if it stopped corruption.
    If governors can accept bribes to let narcos rape and pillage their constituents for a cut, and not be prosecuted except by los gringos.
    Then none of this will stop.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I’ve been saying lately in regards to other issues in life, "sometimes you've got to throw the baby out with the bathwater".
    The mexican govt is the baby, and no matter how many times its washed, it comes out dirty. In fact, its a waste of clean water!
    In a year or two EPN will be gone, but the problem will remain.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Offtopic chivis, the mayor of los ramones N.L suffered and attempt on his life, unfortunately, the people inside the vehicle were his wife and his granddaughters. One of the girls was killed in the attack.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I apologize for writing multiple times on different story threads that I wear diapers. I don't. I was trying to lighten the mood and be the BB "class clown".

    ReplyDelete
  11. What corrupt gov officials need is a little introduction of 'sin saliva' punishment to set em straight.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. 10:33 YESSS! Y doblada, con toy greñas.
      You know, one president that bought his professional certificate on a mexican flea market (like his secretary of the interior and former Hidalgo State narco-governor MAO osorio chón), can't k ow it all, security, administration, state owned enterprises, capitalism, socialism, "populism" and anti-corruption on top of criminal and social justice...motherfacker just learned to ask how much are you paying? After forking the ass...and put my money in odebrecbt, panama, Cayman Islands, hsbc, money or soriana, coppel will do...

      Delete
  12. Hang the politicians from their hueboos, and for good measure hang their ginirals and police chiefs with them.

    ReplyDelete
  13. With the Mexican presidential election less than 7 months away, leading candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has proposed an "amnesty for peace" agreement for locked up cartel kingpins.

    The agreement would entail of complete freedom for the capos; in exchange for a cease to killings, theft (fuel/minerals presumed), and kidnappings. In nowhere in the proposal does it mention a cease to drug trafficking itself.

    IMO: this is an embarrassment on many levels; exhibiting utter insecurity and clearly a failure for the government. Manuel Lopez is essentially proposing to throw in the towel and bow down to the power of the cartels.

    This would also not help the reputation of rampant corruption that Mexico currently has, as there is a likely chance this proposal was mutually orchestrated by the kingpins themselves (ala Cali Cartel).

    Either way, (BB Team) I believe this news should make front-page and let us all keep our eyes on this Andrés Manuel López Obrador...

    -El Búho

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are correct. Read this on the other day. What a scum bag! To give amnesty to all those criminals.
      He definitely wants to legitimize the drug trade organizations.
      Having commentating on politics with BB readers. He was correct about his opinion and the outcome it would be.
      He definitely raised eyebrows and concerns to all Nations. A bad choice and bad Hombre indeed.

      To that commentator; Nice perspective.

      E42

      Delete
    2. There is definitely a push to legitimize government drug trafficking. Why else would anyone pitch an epidemic of grave proportions?
      Not to ease nor stem the epidemic of violence!
      But to control it by means of government legitimacy.
      It’s a failed drug war which is clearly evident.
      Why not profit off the miseries of those willing to consume? This is his rationale.
      Can you blame ones thinking when everything else has failed? He is pushing for the end of violence in his country. Not the concerns of other nations who are engulfed with a drug epidemic!
      Moreover, profit off it!

      Note; I totally disagree with this issue. But the way I see it. I am not his problem nor concern like many of us here.

      E42

      Delete
    3. Thanks, E42. I have always been a fan of your perspective and comments as well.

      As said, I am not only disturbed by the proposal, but by the fact he is the current leading candidate. We can only hope at this point that such a statement is political suicide; then again, with the desperation of the current climate, the people may actually consider such absurdity.

      I do unfortunately fear the latter, due to the current uptick being blamed on the "kingpin strategy".

      Ether way, an article about this proposal by Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador should make its way to the front-page!

      -El Búho

      Delete
    4. Let’s pray it it political suicide as you state!

      E42

      Delete
  14. Corruption will never stop in Mexico. It has been voted the #1 in the world as the corrupt capital. They had built 325 square foot homes for the poor, raked in bribes, from the builder s. Shoddy workmanship on roofs, they leak. Innocent people killed, government looks the other way. Why a commission to oversee corruption, if they are not given the powers to investigate.

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  15. I’m surprised that your comment on the highest ranked country of corruption was allowed. Stated this many times over about its practices. Unfortunately, never posted.
    It’s a war of profound political corruption for profits.

    E42

    ReplyDelete
  16. 5:39 don't forget that two airplanes es fu of cocaine was the excuuuse "to give mexico billions and billions of dollars" by the owners of the planes and the cocaine, the US, to get the war on drugs up and running, now the military and foreign contractors are murdering mexicans wholesale and blaming the biiig baaad narcos for their crimes of state...

    ReplyDelete

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