By RICARDO CASTILLO
Most definitely, Mexican President-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) is getting all the media attention usually reserved for the standing president, namely, in this case, Enrique Peña Nieto (EPN.)
But why is this? The answer is easy: Peña Nieto is now working in the shadows as the glare of the limelight shines brightly on AMLO – slated to become president on Dec. 1, still five long and weary weeks away. (Time flies, but very slowly in this case.)
Most observers agree that AMLO and EPN have signed an inkless pact of carrying out a “velvet transition” of power. AMLO has kept his part of the deal by keeping a hectic daily agenda of “thank you voters” rallies in many different parts of the nation.
Not only that, but in the media, whatever AMLO says is taken as if it were a gospel command to be blindly and faithfully obeyed. There’s only one problem with this: Nobody obeys AMLO yet.
This situation is giving EPN the needed much lack of media attention to allow him to carry out his final mandates, which unfortunately continue to erode the people’s economy.
For instance, over the past two weeks .EPN issued an extra $2 billion, 10-year bond for the country’s ailing, government-owned oil company Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex), which by now owes over $100 billion. This new bond – the destiny of which is at least shady – will pay 6.5 percent and be immediately sold out. It will be due in 2029, but the money will go “to the wellbeing of Pemex,” according to an official Pemex press release.
But that’s not all, folks. Just last week, EPN slapped a new Special Tax Over Production and Services (IEPS) on the staple brands of gasoline (87-octane Magna or regular, now in Pemex competing stations, and the 92-octane premium), both of which shot up in price over .50 centavos per liter. Nowadays, Mexicans pay perhaps the highest price for a gallon of regular gas in the world – over $4 – and for those who use premium, the price tag is even higher. A liter of regular was selling on Monday, Oct. 22, at 20.03 pesos, while Premium sold at 21.43 pesos aliter. Meanwhile, the U.S. dollar was selling at 19.38 pesos per greenback in the open market.
This is the result of EPN’s now infamous Energy Reform, which he would tell the Mexican people back in 2014, “will lower in the near future the price of fuels.” Yeah, sure!
But is Peña Nieto acting like a valiant stalwart of nationalism? Definitely not. And, as the Bible says, from “his deeds thou shall know him.”
And on Thursday, Oct. 18, the legal office of the Presidency of the Republic filed with the Supreme Court of Justice what is shadily called “a constitutional controversy,” hoping the judges emit a mandate stopping potential arrest warrants, home arrests of open investigations for municipal, state and federal authorities that make up the part of EPN’s Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) “federal structure” and who, if the Supreme Court decides favorably for the petition. will not be persecuted nor prosecuted for potential allegations of political crimes. These protection dictates are called “amparos” in Spanish, and are essentially Mexico’s answer to habeas corpus orders, but on a pre-arrest rather than a post-arrest condition.
But why would President Peña Nieto do this? The fact is that he’s not yet out of office and he’s already running scared. He is desperate to protect not just himself but many PRI members and personal protégés – particularly several state governors – now either in jail under mild sentences or on the lam.
Incidentally, regarding the case of former Chihuahua Governor César Duarte, now hiding in the United States, allegedly in El Paso, Texas, AMLO has promised current Chihuahua Governor Javier Corral that he will request U.S. federal authorities to extradite Duarte to respond for a 250 million peso federal funds transfer he made to pay for PRI candidacies back in the 2015 midterm elections, in what has clearly been deemed a fraud by the Peña Nieto administration.
Another issue for which Peña Nieto might be — if not arrested, at least harassed — is the infamous “Odebrecht” case, in which allegedly former Pemex director – a EPN appointee – Emilio Lozoya who stands accused of having taken $10 million in bribes from the Brazilian construction giant in exchange for crooked contracts. Five of those $10 million are said to have gone to EPN’s 2012 presidential electoral campaign.
Odebrecht CEO Marcelo Odebrecht is currently in jail in Brazil after having been proven guilty of many corruption cases in his nations. In other countries, many politicians who took bribes from the construction giants in exchange for contracts are also in jail. But not in Mexico. Official protection anyone? You bet your financial kickback there is!
On this one issue, the National Institute for Transparency, Information Access and Protection of Personal Data (INAI, for short) has requested access to the investigation files by the federal Attorney General’s Office (PGR) to no avail. In fact, former Attorney General Raúl Cervantes announced he’d finished the investigation and immediately resigned the post last year. Since then, there’s only been “substitute” Attorney General Alberto Elías, who has not been officially appointed by Peña Nieto.
The question now is: What else will Peña Nieto do in the penumbra of his mandate in the remaining five weeks of his tenure?
And the other big question is: Will AMLO keep his word to carryout a “velvet transition” and let EPN fade into historical oblivion, his pockets lined with stolen money and his crimes unpunished?
Or will a corrupt EPN simply take off and run scared? We’ll all find out the first week of December.