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.
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.
Until 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.
Columnist Sergio Sarmiento has put forward another reason for delaying until November picking a replacement for Carstens as Governor of Banco de México: It will be a consolation prize for either Videgaray or Meade, if either of them is not chosen by President Peña Nieto to be the PRI’s candidate for 2018. Continue reading
Agustín Carstens announced that President Peña Nieto had asked him to postpone his departure as head of Banco de México from April until November, and that he had agreed. Given the lack of a clear successor to head the Bank, the delay will provide some additional financial stability through the gubernatorial elections in June and the 2018 budget approval process in September-November.
Attorney General Raul Cervantes flew to Brazil to meet with prosecutors there, seeking more information about the corrupt activities of Odebrecht, the Brazilian contractor, in Mexico. While the Odebrecht scandals have led to major investigations in Peru and Colombia, in addition to Brazil, the interest to date of the Mexican authorities has been minimal. This despite the very clear description included in Odebrecht’s plea bargain with the U.S. Department of Justice that was made public by DOJ in December:
Even when President Trump and senior U.S. officials go out of their way to say positive things about cooperation with Mexico, their manner of expression reinforces negative interpretations of their intentions. Two current examples from Trump’s interview before the Super Bowl and Secretary Kelly’s testimony in Congress together with Mexican columnist reactions:
What the U.S. says:
Trump: We have to do something about the cartels. I did talk to [Peña Nieto] about it. I want to help him with it. … He seemed very willing to get help from us because he has got a problem, and it’s a real problem for us. … We get along very well. But they have problems controlling aspects of their country.
Kelly: If the drugs are in the United States, we’ve lost. … I think a huge partner here is Mexico. If we can help them get after the poppy production, … if we can help them get after the production labs, if we can help them get after the heroin, the methamphetamine … before it gets to the border.
What Mexican commentators hear:
Alejandro Hope: The “aid” that Trump is supposedly offering isn’t aid: it is war. … There isn’t … a recognition of the co-responsibility of the two countries with the problem of transnational organized crime. … Trump’s offer is … bullets for the narcos in Mexico – period. If this is aid, I prefer open threats.
Salvador García Soto: What Trump suggested and Kelly confirmed is to take the Merida Initiative to the next level and relaunch it as a new “Plan Mexico,” similar to “Plan Colombia.” … a military assistance plan … which the Americans would coordinate and execute–with the Mexican army and police as “allies” and subordinates.
Raymundo Riva Palacio: This plan would signify the end of the ability of Los Pinos [the Mexican White House] to take independent and autonomous decisions, through a monumental qualitative change in the bilateral cooperation over the past 10 years: the fight against drugs would depend strategically and tactically on the United States.
More extensive quotes are below.
A visibly angry President Peña Nieto gave a very short TV address tonight, after Trump’s signing of executive orders and an ABC News interview
calling again for Mexico to pay for the border wall. A translation of EPN’s address
Today, the President of the United States signed two executive orders related to our country: one to implement immigration measures and another to extend the wall at the border.
In response, I have ordered the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to strengthen measures to protect our compatriots.
The 50 Mexican Consulates in the United States will become authentic advocates for the rights of migrants.
Our communities are not alone. The Mexican Government will provide them with the legal advice that guarantees the protection they need.
I call on legislators and civil society organizations to join efforts to back and support them.
Where there is a Mexican migrant at risk who needs our support, there we must be, there our country must be.
I regret and reject the decision of the United States to continue building a wall that, for years, far from uniting us, divides us.
Mexico does not believe in walls.
I have said it over and over again: Mexico will not pay for any wall.
These executive orders also occur at a time when our country is initiating talks to negotiate the new rules of cooperation, trade, investment, security and migration in the North American region.
This negotiation is very important for the strength, certainty and future of our economy and our society.
As President of the Republic, I fully assume the responsibility of defending and protecting the interests of Mexico and Mexicans.
It is my duty to face the problems and face the challenges.
Based on the final report of the Mexican officials currently in Washington, and after consultation with the leadership of the Senate and the National Conference of Governors, I will have to make decisions on the next steps.
Mexico offers and demands respect, as the fully sovereign Nation that we are.
Mexico endorses its friendship with the people of the United States and its willingness to reach agreements with its government — agreements in favor of Mexico and Mexicans.