Despite the constant barrage of public declarations affirming that the fight against corruption is nothing less than the centerpiece of his governmental program, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has been more talk than action, with results in cases involving high-level officials being extremely meager. Recently, the public’s attention has been refocused on the case of former Pemex CEO Emilio Lozoya, who claims to have first-hand knowledge of and involvement in multi-million-dollar bribery schemes to buy the votes of legislators, most of them allegedly from the PAN in favor of the energy reform during the previous Enrique Peña Nieto administration.
Despite agreements between Lozoya and the Federal Attorney General’s Office granting him status as a protected witness along with multiple extensions, hard evidence has thus far not been forthcoming. There has been widespread criticism that Lozoya is being treated with privilege.
The Lozoya case reflects deficiencies in the administration and in the pursuit of justice. The government and Federal Attorney General Alejandro Gertz Manero have shown little interest in modernizing the criminal justice system and making it more efficient and legitimate. Recent modifications to the Organic Law of the Federal Attorney General’s Office have, in reality, weakened the rule of law. In fact, according to the World Justice Project, Mexico is actually moving backward in the fight against corruption, as its ranking has sunk to 135th place among 139 countries considered. In the absence of proof or convictions, the government has jailed businessmen accused of fiscal fraud, which has now been characterized in recently approved legislation as a crime against national security. Many fear such pre-trial or preventive detention can be used as a stick by the executive branch against businessmen. According to the government’s own statistics 42.7% of prison inmates have yet to be sentenced.
On October 25 the Supreme Court of Justice ruled that preventive or pre-trial detention in cases involving tax fraud and other fiscal offenses is unconstitutional and that they do not constitute crimes against national security. With this, the Supreme Court ruling is once again showing that the nation’s highest court is a counterweight to the president’s unilateral style of governing.
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