Will an Investigation of a Former Mexican President Lead to Costs?

MEXICO CITY — The Mexican legal professional common’s workplace stated this week that it was investigating former president Enrique Peña Nieto for cash laundering and illicit enrichment, the primary official affirmation of such a probe by federal prosecutors.

But to many Mexicans, it was not instantly clear whether or not the announcement was actually a step towards accountability — or simply a political tactic.

Mr. Peña Nieto has lengthy been accused of collaborating in a number of unlawful schemes and directing hundreds of thousands in bribes whereas in workplace, however the Mexican authorities have but to carry costs towards him.

If the inquiries do pressure the previous chief to face a trial, it might be an unprecedented step in Mexico, the place many presidents have been accused of corruption however none has been tried.

Still, merely the information of the investigations will probably profit Mr. Peña Nieto’s successor, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who was swept into workplace in 2018 by an citizens drawn by his promise to eradicate corruption throughout the political institution.

Some political observers consider that’s the entire level.

“As a Mexican, I wish this were about justice, and not about electoral politics,” stated Eduardo Bohórquez, the director of the Mexican chapter of Transparency International, an anti-corruption group.

Mr. Bohórquez questioned the timing of the announcement, which comes because the battle traces are being drawn in what look to be more and more aggressive elections subsequent 12 months in two states which might be strongholds of Mr. Peña Nieto’s occasion — the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or the PRI.

“The idea is to remind people who Peña Nieto was, and who the PRI is,” Mr. Bohórquez stated. “A society’s desire for justice has become an electoral tool.”

Mr. Peña Nieto left workplace in 2018 with traditionally low approval rankings after being dogged by corruption scandals for a lot of his presidency, leaving his as soon as dominant occasion weak and weak.

His successor, Mr. López Obrador, received over hundreds of thousands of voters by casting his political motion as a break with the abuses of the previous. The occasion Mr. López Obrador based, Morena, has steadily eroded its rival PRI’s maintain on energy throughout the nation.

But for all of the rhetoric, few costs have been filed and even fewer convictions obtained towards former officers throughout Mr. López Obrador’s tenure.

“It’s part of a public discourse of which we have seen no outcome,” stated Javier Cruz Angulo, a regulation professor at Mexico’s CIDE college. “We haven’t seen any concrete results against anyone.”

In the case of Mr. Peña Nieto, the authorities appear to have many of the weather mandatory to pursue a prison case.

The authorities has detained a key witness — Emilio Lozoya, the previous director of Pemex, the state-owned oil firm — who informed the authorities that the previous chief spent hundreds of thousands on political bribes.

Last 12 months, federal prosecutors accused Mr. Peña Nieto of collaborating in a prison community that handed out hundreds of thousands of {dollars} in bribes to legislators, the native media reported. And final month, Mexico’s monetary crimes unit, which is an element of the Treasury Ministry, introduced that it too had been investigating Mr. Peña Nieto for suspicious transfers of hundreds of thousands of {dollars}.

Mr. Peña Nieto has maintained his innocence in a collection of Twitter posts. “I am certain that before the competent authorities I will be allowed to clarify any question about my assets and demonstrate their legality,” he stated final month.

The probes by the legal professional common’s workplace had been open for 2 years earlier than they have been introduced Tuesday, stated a authorities official who was not licensed to converse publicly. The resolution to publicize the investigations was apparently made after the president was requested about progress within the case towards Mr. Peña Nieto at a information convention earlier that very same day.

“The attorney general’s office released this information because in the morning we were asked about it,” Mr. López Obrador informed reporters on Wednesday. “We said that the attorney general’s office would offer information.”

A information launch from the legal professional common’s workplace offered little readability on whether or not or when costs can be filed, saying prosecutors have been ready, in a single case, on “indispensable evidence.”

Part of the skepticism across the announcement could also be associated to rising considerations about Mexico’s prime prosecutor. The legal professional common, Alejandro Gertz Manero, was elected by an overwhelming majority of the Senate in 2019, after Mr. López Obrador put his title ahead together with a number of different candidates.

But over the past 12 months, Mr. Gertz Manero has confronted rising scrutiny over his pursuit of circumstances seen as politically motivated or pushed by his personal private vendettas.

In 2020, the legal professional common had his niece jailed as half of an investigation into his brother’s demise. In March, the Mexican Supreme Court stated her detention was unconstitutional and ordered the girl freed. His try to imprison prime lecturers for misusing authorities funds was additionally rejected by a decide final 12 months.

Mr. Gertz Manero has additionally failed to acquire the conviction of any main determine in a single of probably the most infamous corruption circumstances lately: the long-running inquiry into bribes paid by a Brazilian building firm, Odebrecht, to acquire public contracts throughout Latin America.

The regionwide scandal introduced down high-ranking officers in Brazil, Argentina, Peru and Colombia, however nobody in Mexico has been convicted — despite the fact that the corporate admitted to paying $10 million in bribes to Mexican officers.

“The attorney general’s office has lost a lot of credibility,” stated Mr. Cruz Angulo, the regulation professor.

Since coming to workplace, Mr. López Obrador has appeared hesitant on the query of whether or not to prosecute previous presidents.

A 12 months in the past, the president held a nationwide referendum on whether or not former presidents ought to be placed on trial. While 90 % of those that forged a poll voted in favor, the turnout of lower than 7 % made the outcomes of the referendum nonbinding.

When requested in regards to the accusations towards Mr. Peña Nieto on Wednesday, the Mexican chief stated “revenge is not my strong suit.” He insisted that such investigations can be carried out solely “if the people asked” for it.

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