Former Pemex Director Emilio Lozoya Austin. Photo: Yahoo.com

By RICARDO CASTILLO

By the time you read this news item, a jet that took off from Mexico City on Tuesday, July 14, will have landed in Madrid. The unidentified jet, either property of or hired by the Fiscal General of the Republic, has one sole objective. And that is to bring back to Mexico the former head of country’s state-owned oil monopoly Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex) and accused corrupt politician Emilio Lozoya Austin for trial.

But beware: In case you are thinking the Lozoya trial will be about a corrupt Mexican politician, you are way off the mark. Please consider that next July — a year from now — there will be midterm elections in Mexico, with all the seats at the Chamber of Deputies at stake, plus a couple of thousand municipal presidencies and 15 governor races.

Certainly, the current majority political party National Regeneration Movement (Morena) is extremely happy about the Lozoya trial. The reason is that among negotiated legal themes to be brought up during the trial is the fact that Lozoya shelled out Pemex funds to finance the top opposition National Action Party (PAN) during the 2018 presidential elections.

For most Mexican political pundits, the fact that Lozoya allegedly negotiated to talk about the handouts to PAN campaigns represents a wholesome dish of “carnitas,” namely, stewed pork in the delicious Michoacán style of cooking pigs.

However, translated into gringo-ese, Lozoya represents for Morena a pure and wholesome political pork barrel that will eventually bring in votes.

Many observers would imagine that the meatiest news tidbit will be Lozoya’s disclosure of the bribes he allegedly took from Brazilian oil plants construction companies, but then, if bribery was involved, this will not be a political case.

Simply put, the Lozoya trial will not be about corruption, but about the elections. Mexican politicians know there is nothing dearer than electoral victory. In the negotiations for his extradition, Lozoya agreed to tell all he knows about how PAN congressmen back then took kickbacks – both political and in cash – to back up former Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto’s now nearly-dismantled Energy Reform.

Several of those congressmen are now governors and Lozoya was allegedly in charge of shelling out the handouts. Among people allegedly taking cash from Lozoya – through Pemex fake contracts – is no other than former presidential candidate Ricardo Anaya.

Lozoya allegedly also pleaded to tell all about the very corrupt dealings of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) top members, such as former Senator and Sonora Governor Manlio Fabio Beltrones, who, when he was president of the party, supposedly diverted 250 million pesos to support the Chihuahua governor campaign. Also involved in this situation is former Treasury Secretary Luis Videgaray.

In this mess, the one man most deeply involved is former Chihuahua Governor César Duarte, now under arrest in Miami and about to be extradited back to Mexico.

Lozoya managed to direct the course of his trial and be treated nicely. But from the point of view of Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), the trial of Lozoya and Duarte will be used not so much to punish the corrupt but to make a point about how corrupt the PRI regime was during the 2012-2018 period.

All this comes at a moment when not all is going well within Morena, the president’s part. There is a lot of division, and the party still has to elect a new president. But these two cases come, to use the traditional Mexican phrase, like the right ring to a finger.

However, the cherry on the electoral cake will be the case of former Criminal Investigation Agency Director Tomás Zerón de Lucio, now believed to be hiding in Canada, but whose extradition the Foreign Relations Secretariat has already requested from Ottawa. A video has just been conveniently released showing Zerón in an interrogation as an alleged culprit in the disappearance and murder of 43 Ayotzinapa Normal School students on September 2014.

This too will be a “meaty” subject for political maneuvers, with plenty of juicy “carnitas” that have all the potential of doing electoral damage to the PAN and PRI, and to gain as many of the 15 gubernatorial races as possible and keep Morena as the majority party at the Chamber of Deputies.

That should give AMLO free rein to finish his mandate just the way he wants it.

As for Lozoya, he will be given a cushy  treatment upon arrival to Mexico, and if he is willing to tell all he knows about corruption during the Peña Nieto administration, he will definitely make bail – for starters – and maybe even be released free without harsh sentencing.

…July 16, 2020

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