By RICARDO CASTILLLO
Did Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto make a big mistake when he appointed José Antonio Meade Kuribreña as the candidate for the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) for the 2018 presidential elections? A growing number of observers in Mexico think so.
It was considered very strange when, about a week ago, candidate Meade launched a full frontal attack against Chihuahua Governor Javier Corral of the National Action Party (PAN).
“For the first time, we are witnessing a governor that uses torture,” Meade said bluntly,
“We are seeing for the first time a governor who openly cheats. We see a governor who has seen violence multiply in his state fourfold, and who, every time he faces problems, resorts to lies and confrontations.”
After the speech, Meade was asked by reporters why he was accusing Gov. Corral of being “a torturer,” and he simply answered that he had read it in the newspapers “so, consequently, it must be true.”
The political reality is that Gov. Corral triggered an in-depth investigation into previous Chihuahua Governor César Duarte Jáquez, and now the former governor has been issued several arrest warrants for allegations of fraud and corruption during his six-year mandate.
Among the charges Gov. Corral filed are allegations of what is known as “triangulation” of federal funds through the Duarte Jáquez administration to finance PRI electoral campaigns. In fact, another top official – Manlio Fabio Beltrones – was directly accused of carrying out the “triangulation” while he was the national PRI president. Beltrones (nicknamed Godfather Don Beltrone) has obtained a legal protection against arrest, known in Spanish as an “amparo”.
What struck an off key sound in this sorted affair is the fact that candidate Meade recklessly damaged his own campaign with his direct assault on Corral. First of all, Corral has not even gotten involved in the ongoing presidential pre-campaigns, which makes Meade’s attack even stranger.
But what Corral did do last Tuesday was to hold a press conference to denounce the Treasury Secretariat of withholding federal funds from his administration, something Treasury Secretary (and Meade’s close friend) José Antonio González Anaya denied, noting that the Chihuahua state accountants “made a mistake giving us the wrong account. But that’s been corrected.”
It’d seem that Corral’s anti-corruption movements have angered many PRI officials all the way up the ladder to President Peña Nieto himself. It is worth noting that former Governor Duarte’s finance secretary is now under arrest for fraud. Worse still, he seems to be giving out information on the dirty dealings in the state. It was he who said that there had been a 246 million peso “triangulation” and that Duarte had pocketed 1.2 billion pesos of federal monies.
Another issue at hand is that that not all the accusations against Duarte fall under the auspices of the Chihuahua state government competency. Some fall under that of the Federal Attorney General. Hence, all these cases will depend directly on what President Peña Nieto orders, so, in the eyes of many, it seems highly unlikely that these investigations will proceed. For now, these cases are out of the hands of Corral, even though it is his administration that is making the accusations.
The last thing President Peña Nieto needs now is the jailing of yet another corrupt PRI governor that operated under his mandate.
Perhaps candidate Meade wants to look good in the eyes of the president.
But in the process of getting involved in the Chihuahua scandal, he is smearing the only positive image he had going for him, that of an honest man.
By making comments on an issue that in reality does not concern him, Meade has come out badly smeared with political mud.
This will only weaken him further as a candidate (he’s already running way behind in third place in the polls), and this is why a number of national and international pundits believe that Peña Nieto picked the wrong candidate for the PRI.
Meade used to look clean; not anymore.