By MARK LORENZANA
According to documents leaked by hacktivist group Guacamaya, the federal government of Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) and the Armed Forces have at their disposal a “discretionary bag” worth 113 billion pesos from a trust fund of Mexico’s National Customs Agency (ANAM).
Despite the promise of López Obrador to extinguish trust funds or “fideicomisos” under his watch, AMLO’s administration continues to keep such funds, which are used without transparency, warned Sarahí Salvatierra, coordinator of the Accountability and Fight against Corruption Program.
At the end of 2021, according to Salvatierra, there were still more than 350 trusts that had a total worth of more than 509 billion pesos, the bulk of which was reportedly allocated to both ANAM and for spending on equipment of the Secretariat of National Defense (Sedena).
The Sedena documents, which were obtained by the Guacamaya hacker group and shared to the public, reveal that the Mexican federal government plans to spend 113 billion pesos from the Customs trust to fund the expenses of Sedena.
These expenses, outlined in the documents, allegedly include “priority works” in the Tehuantepec Isthmus corridor, which is controlled by the Secretariat of the Navy (Semar); Sedena works in the northern part of the country; and allocation for a project by Sedena in Guaymas, Sonora, which includes a highway and a port.
Other items that were detailed in the documents include “purchase of equipment” for both the Army and the Navy, as well as allocations for the Felipe Ángeles International Airport (AIFA) and the Tren Maya, two controversial pet projects of López Obrador that have been turned over to Sedena.
Since February of this year, according to the hacks, a fund known as the Trust to Manage the Consideration of Article 16 of the Customs Law (FACLA) had been “shared” between ANAM, Sedena, and the Tax Administration Service (SAT).
Likewise, since March of this year, the former head of ANAM, Horacio Duarte — who recently stepped down from his post on Oct. 12 — has allegedly been calling meetings with the FACLA Technical Committee, whose main objective was to authorize the transfer of funds requested by Sedena and Semar to their new trusts.
The two trusts were purportedly established by López Obrador when he created ANAM at the end of 2021 to take control of Customs from SAT, and simultaneously put those trusts in the hands of the military.
The funneling of resources from FACLA to the new trusts was immediately reflected in its balance, since at the end of 2021 ANAM had 81.5 billion pesos, but by the end of March the balance was down to 45.9 billion.
In August of this year, the Mexican federal government was likewise reported to have created three new trust funds worth 25 billion pesos, despite a decree by López Obrador in March of 2020 ordering the “extinction” of 109 trust funds “to combat corruption.”
At that time, the beneficiaries of the three new discretionary trust funds created by the executive branch — without going through Congress — were Sedena, Semar and the SAT. The three trust funds totaled 25.8 billion pesos at the end of June of this year, almost 4 billion pesos more than the 22 billion pesos combined amount of the original 109 trust funds that were supposedly extinguished in 2020.