By RICARDO CASTILLO
Just in case anyone still had any doubts, the old Mexican political system embedded in the once-governing Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) seems to be composed not only of a pack of thieving scoundrels, but also of cowards.
The reaction of some of the leading members of whatever is left of the PRI to the arrest earlier this month of former Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex) Director Emilio Lozoya Austin in Malaga, Spain, was both astounding and mindboggling.
Of course, the biggest coward is Lozoya Austin himself, who is guilty on two different counts.
First off, he ran like a scared coyote (coyotes get rampant diarrhea when chased), once he learned that Mexican Fiscal General Alejandro Gertz Manero had a solid case against him.
Lozoya Austin’s second act of cowardice was, at least in the eyes of sume, far worse than stealing from the nation. It was betraying his family and not caring that his mother and sister and even his wife are facing charges of “criminal association” with him.
It was his father, Emilio Lozoya Thalmann – Mexico’s former energy secretary – who apparently finally put a stop to his living high on the hog while his mother was thrown in the slammer and now lives under house arrest. (I will talk about this sorted family affair further down in the article.)
But let me first get back to the subject of how some top PRI officials have reacted to the scandalous arrest.
First and foremost among the cowards is, no doubt, Senator Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong, leader of the PRI members of the Senate, who was Mexico’s interior secretary for six years during the President Enrique Peña Nieto administration, and, as such, he was the best informed man as to what was going on at the time.
But now, Osorio Chong has denied knowing anything about the dealings of Lozoya Austin.
In a group press conference at the Senate, he distanced himself from any relationship with Lozoya Austin.
“I hold myself responsible of my own acts, of my decision-making at the Secretariat of the Interior, and I have always faced (the consequences of) my acts,” Osorio Chong said.
“I have no fear. My work had to do with the nation’s governance, and not with economic issues or Pemex.”
Osorio Chong claimed that}even though he met with Lozoya Austin many times in cabinet meetings, as interior secretary “I talked to him, maybe twice, but never had any direct dealings with him regarding his responsibilities.”
“It wasn’t my job to do so,” he said. “It wasn’t my area.”
Just as note: Perhaps Osorio Chong did not intervene in Lozoya Austin’s dealings, but in Mexico, the Interior Secretariat has spies in all the cabinet secretariats, and, as the old farmhand Mexican adage says, in terms of information, Osorio Chong had the burro grabbed by the tail. But it is at this point in time, it is more convenient for Osorio Chong to claim he knew nothing.
Another PRI hanger-on who is eschewing Lozoya Austin is none other than the current PRI president and former Campeche governor, Alejandro Moreno, who goes by the nickname of “Alito.”
Alito is now publicly claiming that Lozoya Austin was never a member of the PRI and that, at best, he was an aide to Peña Nieto when he was candidate.
The fact is, however, that Lozoya Austin was not only a card-holding member of the PRI, but was the secretary of international relations for the PRI National Executive Council during the presidency of Pedro Joaquín Coldwell.
Lozoya Austin was not just part of the PRI presidential electoral campaign machinery, but always considered as an inside member of the party.
When Peña Nieto won the election in 2012, both were, as the saying goes for getting appointed, thrown a bone for their efforts, with Coldwell be being named energy secretary for the entire six years of the presidential term, and Lozoya Austin being handed the helm of Pemex until he was fired in 2016.
I mention these two politicians specifically because they are still fat cats at the PRI and will be until Armageddon finally hits the old party that ruled Mexico for 76 years.
Now are the days to deny, deny and deny ever having known Lozoya Austin.
But back to the Lozoya family affair, because there are inklings of info trickling down as to how Lozoya Austin was arrested and who might have given Gertz Manero the lead as to his whereabouts.
From the start, when the arrest warrant for Lozoya Austin was first issued last August, he managed to remain one step ahead of the law, escaping to an unknown destination. Hearsay at the time had him hiding in Germany or Switzerland.
One thing is certain: Gertz Manero began an all-out hound dog search for the alleged culprit.
For months, Gertz Manero was unable to find any trace of Lozoya Austin, who, in fact. was hiding in Russia under the protection of the Vladimir Putin regime and his oil-related pals.
Gertz Manero, however, knew for a fact that in Mexico there were two persons who knew where Lozoya Austin was hiding. One was his defense lawyer, Javier Coello Trejo (an old pal and peer at the former Attorney General’s Office in Mexico City), and the other was the culprit’s father, Emilio Lozoya Thalmann.
Gertz Manero first pressured first Coello Trejo, who refused to give Lozoya Austin up, legally, rightly so. Gertz Manero threatened his old pal Coello Trejo – once known at the Attorney General’s Office as the “Iron Solicitor” — with jail.
But Coello did not give in and then the Fiscal General issued an arrest warrant for Javier Coello Zwarth, Coello Trejo’s son.
The warrant was only for legal misdemeanors, but it was still an arrest warrant.
Eventually, the charges were dropped but the scare had hit home for the Iron Solicitor.
Still, faithful to his vow of attorney-client privilege, Coello Trejo refused to disclose Lozoya Austin’s location.
Then, Gertz Manero went after another old friend of his – incidentally, all of them PRI members in the old days – Emilio Lozoya Thalmann, who was complaining of constant police harassment of his wife, Gilda Austin, and daughter, Gilda Susana.
Lozoya Thalmann, secretary of energy, mines and state-owned industries during the era of President Carlos Salinas de Gortari (1988-1994), got swayed by Gertz Manero’s pummeling and finally revealed the phone number of his son in order to protect the rest of his family.
Soon the Spanish Police Group of Localization of International Fugitives, which boasts an excellent tight informative relation with Mexico’s Fiscal General, found the wanted man and now has him in custody, awaiting extradition.
With Lozoya Austin finally in custody, there is now a lull before the political storm in Mexico strikes.
It may take a year, more or less, until Lozoya Austin is brought home to face charges. Then, all political hell may break lose in Mexico, including the PRI losing its political party registration on charges of having purchased votes with illegal money.
But Lozoya Austin’s family can now live in peace … until then.