By ALEJANDRO ENVILA FISHER
The ongoing (and scandalous) saga of Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office (FGR) versus the National Council of Science and Technology (Conacyt) in the persecution of 31 prestigious scientists and academics for the alleged misuse of use of federal resources has begun to taint the political aspirations of Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum Pardo, the heir apparent of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.
In a third round of attacks on the scientists, the Federal Prosecutor’s Office on Tuesday, Oct. 2, summoned six of the 31 defendants to testify.
Whatever the outcome of those summons, given that a federal judge has already twice rejected FGR head Alejandro Gertz Manero’s obsessive efforts to prosecute the scientists (who exposed the fact that he plagiarized his professional thesis) for lack of evidence, and the fact that former Conacyt Director María Elena Álvarez-Buylla has resigned to try to save face, Gertz Manero and his cohorts have already lost any semblance of credibility in the persecution of the scientists.
For all practical purposes, although the case may still have some legal wiggle room, in the eyes of the public and the media, the sentence is clear: The scientists are the victims of a perverse political persecution by Gertz Manero and Álvarez-Buylla.
But the repercussions of the scandal go far beyond the scientists, Gertz Manero and Álvarez-Buylla.
Not only has it elevated public respect for Mexico’s scientific community, but it has marred the image of wannabe AMLO successor Sheinbaum Pardo.
Last week, it was revealed that the Mexico City mayor’s daughter, Mariana Imaz Sheinbaum, had been awarded a Conacyt scholarship.
And since López Obrador has repeatedly shunned Conacyt as a pillar of “neoliberal corruption,” the scholarship has become a political albatross for Sheinbaum Pardo.
Whether or not Imaz Sheinbaum had the academic merits to receive that scholarship, the academic grant is now being seen by many as a spoil of nepotism.
And the fact that AMLO has consistently ranted against Conacyt in his daily morning tirades only makes matters worse.
Justly or otherwise, Imaz Sheinbaum has been permanently branded as having benefited from her mother’s position, an academic blot that will no doubt follow her the rest of her life.
Moreover, the multi-million-peso scholarship of Sheinbaum Pardo’s daughter has become a political liability for the capital’s mayor.
And with the Mexican media spotlight currently focused squarely on Sheinbaum Pardo, old wounds that had been long buried (with the help of the president’s leftist National Regeneration Movement party) are now being reopened.
At the center of the gathering storm is Sheinbaum Pardo’s ex-husband and father to Imaz Sheinbaum, Carlos Imaz Gispert, who was sentenced to prison in 2004 for electoral fraud.
The mere mention of Imaz Gispert’s name brings up unpleasant memories that Sheinbaum Padro would much rather forget, including an embarrassing episode when he was filmed receiving cash by the handfuls at the offices of the Argentine businessman and city contractor Carlos Ahumada.
At the time that video scandal detonated, Imaz Gispert was, in addition to being Sheinbaum’s husband, the head of Mexico City’s Tlalpan Precinct.
Prior to that scandal, Imaz Gispert was the pampered protégé of Rosario Robles Berlanga, then a national leader of Mexico’s leftist Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) and later a strong opponent and personal enemy of López Obrador.
Although Sheinbaum Pardo divorced Imaz Gispert before starting her campaign for Mexico City mayor in 2017, the name of her daughter’s father and the circumstances in which he ended up being expelled from politics are not a pleasant matter for anyone.
Now, that name and its negative overtones, documented in a video that is once again circulating profusely on social media, has returned to haunt Sheinbaum Pardo, thanks to her daughter’s questionable scholarship.
All this — the Conacyt scholarship, the persecution of the scientists and the exhuming of the Imaz Gispert scandal — is taking place just when AMLO has bent over backwards to show his preference for Sheinbaum Pardo to be his successor, something that not all Morena militants seem to agree with.
To an undiscerning eye, all this might seem coincidental.
But in politics there are no coincidences, and the president knows it.
ALEJANDRO ENVILA FISHER is a lawyer and professor at the National Autonomous University of Mexico’s (UNAM) School of Law. He directed the political magazine Cambio and Radio Capital for 15 years. He also founded and directed GreenTV, a cable television channel specializing in sustainability and the environment, for five years. He has been a commentator and host for various radio and television shows and has written political columns for the newspapers El Día and Unomásuno, in addition to publishing articles in more than 20 regional newspapers in Mexico since 1995. He is the author of the books “One Hundred Names of the Mexican Transition,” “Chimalhuacán, the Empire of La Loba” and “Chimalhuacán, from Lost City to Model Municipality.”