By RICARDO CASTILLO
The Mexican writ of legal protection, or amparo, is a juridical resource for those who know they could stand accused of a wrongdoing.
Historically, it’s unprecedented in the nation for a standing president to request an amparo which he will use in the near future. But as the old adage goes, there’s always a first time and that first time came last week as President Enrique Peña Nieto sought — and received — an amparo directly from the Supreme Court.
The amparo was issued by Judge Eduardo Medina Mora, who just coincidentally was appointed to the Supreme Court by Peña Nieto in December 2015. In Mexico, all Supreme Court judges serve for a maximum of 15 years, so Medina Mora will still be in place just in case someone decides to file charges against soon-to-be-regular-citizen-again Peña Nieto.
However, it’d seem that Peña Nieto has good reason to fear for his future. The case against him would be for promoting and upholding corrupt activities in an electoral case in the state of Chihuahua during the 2015 midterm elections. Here’s a bit of background on the case that prompted Peña Nieto to seek protection from the Supreme Court “just in case.”
The Chihuahua state government in December 2017 issued an arrest warrant for former Governor Cesar Duarte Jáquez for diverting up federal funds to the incumbent Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which is commanded nationally by none other than Peña Nieto himself. Since Duarte Jáquez (who clearly read the writing on the wall and figured it was high time to get the hell out of Dodge) fled the state and is, reportedly, in either El Paso or Miami, the arrest warrant was executed against PRI State President Alejandro Gutiérrez. He was arrested on Dec. 20, 2017, on charges of being part of a conspiracy that funneled 250 million pesos from state government funds to the PRI to finance part of the 2016 race for governor. The warrant, which is valid only in the state of Chihuahua, also mentions the participation of then-national PRI President and Senator Manlio Fabio Beltrones, as well as then-Mexican Finance secretary and current Foreign Relations Secretary Luis Videgaray.
Gutiérrez wields a long-time professional history within the PRI. He immediately claimed “political persecution” on the part of current state Governor Javier Corral of the conservative National Action Party (PAN). In fact, after he was jailed for diverting federal funds from the state government to the PRI, a new charge was filed against him with peculation for 1.7 million pesos as payment for services that he never rendered. While in jail, Gutiérrez’s defense lawyer claimed “psychological torture” against his client. The state government denied the charges.
However, Gutiérrez was released from prison on Sept. 28 of this year and the charges for the 250 million diversion of federal funds to the PRI were dropped.
Corral says he will file charges against the current pro tempore attorney general, Alberto Elías Beltrán, because Elías Beltrán never ordered an investigation into the case. But Gutiérrez still remains charged with the peculation charges and is under house arrest, tagged with an electronic bracelet and not allowed to leave the state of Chihuahua.
The case is directly linked to the amparo Peña Nieto received because Corral has threatened to show that the alleged diversion of funds was in fact an act the “fruit of the strategy and complicity with the Peña Nieto administration.”
Hence the writ of protection issued by Supreme Court Judge Median Mora is in all in relation to the charges filed by Corral against Gutiérrez, ans reads as follows:
“The suspension against the acts of investigation and processing was granted because, had it not been, it could generate a grave situation of general impunity as there is no certainty as to who the accusing attorneys and competent judges to process the investigations might be against federal officials.”
In short, the state of Chihuahua can’t proceed against the federal government. The mandate is written in Mexican legal doubletalk, which, in the opinion of some Mexican legal experts “takes away the opportunity from citizens to learn about the responsibility of the federal government’s involvement in possible illegalities and offers protection to abuses of power.”
It is all too clear to many observers why Peña Nieto appointed Medina Mora, who for many years, after being a PRI senator, served as Mexico’s ambassador both to England and the United States. He is now the best political and legal bodyguard lame-duck President Peña Nieto could possibly hope for.
It is also predictable by now that the new Andrés Manuel López Obrador administration is not considering any persecution of federal officials, as it falls under his conciliatory banners of “forgive and forget” and “love and peace.”
But surely, the written amparo grants the outgoing president peace of mind in the future, and the certainty that he will not be thrown into the slammer at any time, even if, as in the Chihuahua case, he could be proven guilty as sin.
As for Judge Medina Mora, well, he stands accused of showing his gratitude to his buddy Peña Nieto and as the old Mexican ranchero song says, “amor con amor, se paga” (“love is paid back with love”).
After all, what are political cronies for?