By RICARDO CASTILLO
Do you remember Jose Antonio Meade Kuribreña?
In case you don’t, let me tell you that he was the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) presidential candidate handpicked by former President Enrique Peña Nieto to run during the 2018 electoral campaign. Meade finished third in that race.
Since then, Meade has seldom been heard from or about. But on what is now being called “Black Tuesday the 13,” namely Aug. 13, just after former Sedesol and Sedatu Secretary Rosario Robles Berlanga had been given preventive imprisonment (for details, see my previous column in Pulse News Mexico on the matter), Meade showed up at the National Palace on a friendly visit to current Finance (Hacienda) Secretary Arturo Herrera.
There would have been nothing unusual about the visit since it’s been customary in the past for former Finance secretaries to meet with the current one to exchange opinions and courses of action.
But in Meade’s case, the situation may be different. On the night of Monday, Aug. 12, during her 12-hour-long interrogation, Robles admitted having been aware that there was a scam going on, which is now known in the press as the “Master Fraud.” She was jailed on the charge of “omission” for not having done anything about it, but she maintained that she did do something.
One thing she said she did was to have used the “red” phone line that linked all Peña Nieto cabinet members to the president to let him know that funds were being funneled through state universities. Apparently, after that happened, Peña Nieto decided to promote Robles from the Social Development Secretariat (Sedesol) to the Territorial and Urban Development Secretariat (Sedatu).
Upon being promoted from Sedesol to Sedatu, Robles told the judge that she had also informed her successor at Sedesol of the scam, none other than Meade himself. This information now makes him a suspect in having known about the Master Fraud and, just like Robles, not having done anything about it.
Surely, the Robles jailing sent jitters up Meade’s spine, so much so that he made the noticeable move to visit the National Palace in plain daylight. A friendly visit to Finance Secretary Herrera? Aha!
Let’s not forget either that previous to being the head of Sedesol, Meade Kuribreña served as Foreign Relations (SRE) secretary, a post from which he was replaced by Peña Nieto’s favorite man, Luis Videgaray, who had been removed from being Finance Secretary after he made the gross error of inviting then-U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump to visit Mexico. The move sank Peña Nieto’s popularity to a basement level he was never able to rebound from. Meade Kuribreña was then kicked upstairs to the Finance Secretariat from Sedesol and, finally, to the presidential candidacy.
Even worse for Meade Kuribreña, the head of the Financial Intelligence Unit, Santiago Nieto of the Finance Secretariat, announced immediately after Robles was tanked that his team is currently “analyzing information,” as they have detected 105 new additional agreements made by her that were registered with the Federal Superior Audit for over 800 million pesos that also went missing along with over 5 billion pesos.
“We’re gearing up to present more charges” against Robles, Nieto said, as apparently many of these funding agreements were approved directly by her.
During her hearing, Robles was asked to reveal whether she had taken any action on the issue and she answered, on the record:
“Yes, I informed my successor at Sedesol, José Antonio Meade Kuribreña, and at the same time, President Peña Nieto himself, through messages in the red (phone) line.”
Nieto also said that the Master Fraud investigation was being increased and hinted that there were at least 50 people involved in the scam.
Early Wednesday, Aug. 14, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO)denied that any “new investigations” were underway, either on Robles or others, repeating what he had said before that he is not after revenge and that this investigation had been an ongoing case since the Peña Nieto administration.
“But I am not covering up for anybody,” AMLO said.
In the case of Meade Kuribreña, who has not yet been charged of any wrongdoing, by moving from Sedesol up to the Finance Secretariat, it seems obvious that he had all the information on the issue but also did nothing.
But neither did former Attorney General Elías Beltrán, who sent the investigation to the freezer. He took orders directly from Peña Nieto.
Sure enough, Meade Kuribreña is next in the line in the investigation, either for participating in the fraud or for “omission,” like Robles.
The problem at hand seems that all lines of investigation eventually lead up to Peña Nieto, who’s now on a grooving spree of fiestas and fancy restaurants, both in Mexico and Spain.
Will Peña Nieto eventually be summoned to declare on the Master Fraud issue? Surely, not before Meade Kuribreña is summoned top do so. He’s the natural next in line.
This case is just getting interesting!