By RICARDO CASTILLO
Imprisoned Mexican steel tycoon Alonso Ancira’s lawyer, José Luis Castañeda, continued negotiations at the Mexico City North Penitentiary late Tuesday, Feb. 9, and finally came up with a figure that his client will have to pay to win his freedom.
In an out-of-court negotiation still to be ratified, Mexico’s state-run oil company Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex) lawyers and Castañeda reached a tentative $219 million reparatory settlement.
The lawyer said that Ancira was willing to pay if the nation’s Attorney General’s Office (FGR) would drop the charges for which he was going to be tried.
The owner of Mexico’s largest steel mill in Monclova, Coahuila, Altos Hornos de México (AHMSA) was jailed on charges of damages to the nation following an irregular sale of the fertilizer manufacturing company Agro Nitrogenados for an amount that was later considered by the oil company as excessive.
The announcement of the potential reparatory settlement was made by Castañeda Tuesday evening during a court recess.
”Today we left the door open with the Attorney General through a reparatory accord,” he told reporters in the court, located in the Mexico City North Penitentiary, where Ancira was still in detention.
“We sat down and talked. That’s the juridical process that the law permits us to use.”
During his early morning press conference at the National Palace, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) was asked what he thought about the case.
“It is up to the competent authorities to decide if, in addition to a reparatory settlement, there is something else to be sentenced,” he said.
“Surely, that’s a matter that corresponds to the judge. What we do want is the refund of the money.”
Negotiations were expected to continue until the wee hours of Wednesday, Feb. 10.
No Cancelling of Mega Projects
During his Tuesday, Feb. 8, press conference, AMLO commented on the letter sent to him by a group of medical specialists, scientists and intellectuals imploring him to drop his campaign promises to build a new airport, revamp and expand the Maya Train in the Yucatan peninsula, and stop the Dos Bocas refinery construction.
The request was also signed by journalists Héctor Aguilar Camín and historian Enrique Krauze.
“There is no need to do that,” AMLO said.
“These is no way we are going to cancel the Maya Train or the refinery. They mean jobs and are going to promote tourism.”
The letter implored the president “to be realistic” and stop the projects and use the financing to “buy Pfizer vaccines” to deal with the country’s surging covid-19 pandemic.
But AMLO turned down the suggestion, already made twice by the group in the past.
The president then alleged that the authors of the letter had receives bribes in the past for their writings, and would not do so under his administration.
“This is directed not just at them, but in general,” AMLO said.
“That’s why they get mad and devote articles and columns” to attacking him and his adminbistration, he said.
“We’re not going to stop,” AMLO said flatly.
Electrifying Electricity Bill
The drafting by the Mexican Chamber of Deputies of the proposed Electric Industry Bill continued under heated debate.
One point yet to be settled and at the core of the conflict between private industry suppliers and the government is the order in which electricity is fed into the grid.
Suppliers who produce clean energy through windmills and solar panels want theirs to be prioritized.
The government, on the other hand, which produces dirty energy through fuel oil and several coal plants, claims clean energy is “intermittent” and faces production problems since they depend on sun and wind availability, affecting their supply.
Another major issue is price: Clean energy is expensive, while dirty power is not.
Sources at the Chamber of Deputies have said that the bill will include price hikes based on inflation rates.
Inflation Is Up
Speaking of inflation, the Consumer Price Index increased in January to 3.54 percent, a lot higher than the 3.15 percent from December, according to the monthly report issued by the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (Inegi) on Monday, Feb. 8.
The amount is also above of what independent economists had been forecasting for January, which was 3.46 percent.
Pushing the increase was a hike on fuel and commodity prices.
In a video conference Monday, Mexico’s National Electoral Institute (INE) and the Treasury’s Finance Intelligence Unity (UIF) announced having detected ill.gotten funds being pumped into several electoral campaigns.
Without specifying who was responsible, UIF Director Santiago Nieto Castillo warned of a “risk that criminal organizations are aiming at financing some campaigns with illegal resources.”
Campaigns are set to officially begin on April 4, but both Nieto and INE President Lorenzo Córdova signed an agreement to enhance candidate spending supervision even before then.
“The 2021 elections will have increased supervision standards,” Córdova said, “becausee Mexican democracy demands that there be no cheating.”
The INE is supposed to be the sole source of campaign financing.
It has a budget of nearly 7 billion pesos to pay for expenses of the next June 6 midterm elections.
The INE funnels funds through the contending political parties based on the number of votes they had in the 2018 federal elections.
…Feb. 19, 2021