Pemex board reportedly opens corruption investigations

According to columnist Ana Paula Ordorica, the Pemex board of directors opened investigations into three issues that occurred  when Emilio Lozoya was head of the state oil company:  contracts with the Brazilian contractor Odebrecht, the purchase of two fertilizer companies,  and the acquisition of nine aircraft.

Lozoya, a close personal friend of Enrique Peña Nieto, was CEO of Pemex from the beginning of the EPN government in Dec. 2012 to Feb. 2016.

Odebrecht has confessed to paying US$10.5 million in bribes to Pemex officials,  during both the Calderón and EPN governments. (The Odebrecht contracts have been put under seal.) Little apparent progress has been made by Mexican authorities in pursuing a corruption case that was handed them on a silver platter.

In Jan. 2014 and Jan. 2016, Pemex inexplicably purchased two fertilizer manufacturing companies for a total of US$730 million, for reasons that have never been explained adequately.  (The documents justifying the purchase were also placed under seal for 12 years.)  In January 2017, the company hired UBS to sell the money-losing operations.

Finally, Pemex purchased 5 airplanes and 4 helicopters while Lozoya was CEO for almost US$100 million “to strengthen Pemex’s operational capabilities.” However, according the audits of the company, at least four of the aircraft were never entered as assets in the company’s books, and they appear to have been used for personal purposes.

Pemex puts Odebrecht contracts under seal until 2020

In response to requests for information about its Odebrecht contracts under the transparency laws, Pemex Industrial Transformation (the refining arm) acknowledged two contracts but said that they had been put under seal until February 2023.  The company said that “to disclose the contracts would put at risk the investigations being carried out by PGR and SFP,” (the Justice Ministry and the Public Function Secretariat).

Perhaps another sign that the investigation of the bribes that Odebrecht confessed paying between 2010 and 2014 will be less than vigorous.

Is Peña Nieto losing control of the succession?

Doubts are emerging about President Peña Nieto’s ability to keep control of the succession process, given the abysmal polling of the potential PRI candidates for the 2018 presidential election.

Screen Shot 2017-03-22 at 8.51.03 AMUntil now, almost all have assumed that EPN would pick his successor using the “dedazo,”  the big finger, that PRI presidents in the pre-democratic era exercised to indicate their successor.   Indeed, EPN has maintained iron control of gubernatorial nominations through his term.

An anonymous PRI official told columnist Salvador García Soto,

We have to tell President Peña that the method for picking gubernatorial candidates until now won’t work to solve the succession issue inside the PRI.  The president needs to innovate, open the process, and let many aspirants run in an open manner to help the PRI reposition itself in an adverse environment in which the other parties and candidates have big advantages.

According to García Soto, Presidencia’s last internal poll shows that all the potential PRI candidates finish a distant third against AMLO and any PAN candidate.  The best positioned of the PRIistas is Health Secretary José Narro.  In a trial ballot, Narro captures 19% of the vote, AMLO 29.6%, and Margarita Zavala of the PAN 24.3%.

These PRI dissidents are promoting the idea that the PRI National Assembly, scheduled to meet at the beginning of August, should decide the methods for selecting candidates for the 2018 races.

February sets new record for homicides

Official numbers show that Mexico set a new record for wrongful homicides in February, and that killings for the first two months of 2017 are up 29% from 2016.

The 1,838 investigations into wrongful homicides opened by the authorities in February — the preferred measure — and the 3,779 in January-February were higher than the numbers registered at the height of the Calderón government’s drug wars in 2011.

Screen Shot 2017-03-22 at 9.13.54 AMIn terms for rates per 100k, the numbers are equivalent to the 2011 peak, given population growth. (See chart from Milenio.)

Security columnist Alejandro Hope observes:

January was bad.  February was horrible.  More than 20 victims per day — sufficient to fill a dumping ground like Colinas de Santa Fe in less than two weeks. … The principal officials in the security area continue to deny the gravity of the situation, fighting over statistics. …. In the principal decision centers there isn’t any interest in doing more than administer the disaster. … The problem, I fear, is one much more of will than of ideas or resources.”

Two attorney generals meet

Cervantes - SessionsRaul Cervantes and Jeff Sessions, the Mexican and U.S. attorneys general, held their first meeting today in Washington.

Now, all the senior cabinet officials on both sides of the bilateral relationship, with the exception of Robert Lighthizer, who has not yet been confirmed as USTR, have met for initial working meetings.

Issues discussed included bilateral cooperation on extradition, technical assistance,  human trafficking, money laundering, corruption, and all forms of illicit cross-border activity.  “Both officials reiterated their commitment to cooperate on the interchange of information in order to identify and dismantle transnational criminal organizations, as well as to combat the illegal traffic in drugs and weapons,” according to the PGR’s press release.

Whether by coincidence or not, the meeting coincided with the announcement of the recovery by the PGR and Federal Police of Tom Brady’s stolen Super Bowl LI jersey, acting on information provided by the FBI and Houston police.  The jersey (and other stolen football memorabilia) were reportedly recovered on March 12 in a house in Atizapán, Mexico State and have already been returned to the U.S.  Reporting in Excelsior and NYT.

 

Poll shows strong public support for using Army and Marines to fight organized crime

A poll carried out by the Chamber of Deputies, which is currently debating the new internal security law, showed that almost 80% of those surveyed supported giving legal authorization for the Army and the Marines to fight organized crime.

Milenio poll 1

The survey of 900 persons carried out by the Chamber’s Center for Social Studies and Public Opinion also showed some clear limitations on the powers they approved the military having.

Those surveyed said the military should:

  • Be able to put down demonstrations using force: 74% NO
  • Be able to carry out communications surveillance or collect personal information: 55% NO
  • Be able to carry out criminal investigations: 61% YES
  • Be able to take criminal complaints and testimony of criminal acts: 62% YES

 

Screen Shot 2017-03-20 at 12.08.13 PM

The poll also showed in stark terms the difference between public confidence in the Army and the Marines lack of trust in local and state police forces, and even the Federal Police.

Reported in Milenio.

 

AMLO’s NYC tour derailed by protesters

While AMLO has been using his visits to Mexican communities in the U.S. to portray a statesman-like image, he was effectively derailed by protesters in Queens, New York on Monday. Supporters and family members of the 43 students killed in Iguala in 2014 interrupted a town-hall type meeting, accusing AMLO (correctly) of close ties with the then mayor of Iguala and then governor of Guerrero at the time.  (Both politicians were members of the PRD, and were politically backed by AMLO and his supporters.)   In the face of the disruption, AMLO cancelled the rest of the Queens event; much of the rest of his agenda in NYC and Washington was hit by winter storm “Stella.”  The images of the protesters shutting AMLO down is about the only impact his visit had in Mexico.

 

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