Photo: Deposit Photos

By KELIN DILLON

According to an investigative report conducted by daily Mexican newspaper Reforma, prominent businessman José María Riobóo allegedly received multiple major contracts from Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum’s government between 2020 and 2022 without bidding on any of the projects, the value of which purportedly surpasses 50 million pesos.

Widely known as a close adviser to Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) and the husband to controversial Supreme Court Minister Yasmín Esquivel, Riobóo has been thrust into the spotlight over recent weeks due to allegations of abusing his influence in seeking the arrest of his former daughter-in-law, María Isabel Cal y Mayor, who Riobóo questionably accused of murdering his son for money in 2019. 

While Cal y Mayor was cleared of all wrongdoing by Spain’s Court of Madrid, the relevant authorities to where her husband passed away, Riobóo has purportedly harnessed his power in Mexico to obtain an arrest warrant against Cal y Mayor and instead absorbed all of his deceased son’s assets for himself.

Now, Riobóo’s public scandals continue as the revelations of his bidless Mexico City government contracts, as overseen by Sheinbaum, came to light. The two most expensive of the contracts were given to Riobóo’s Riobóo SA de CV in 2022, relating to the construction of section three of Mexico City’s elevated Interurban Train – contracts that are currently months behind on their scheduled delivery date.

One 11.7 million-peso contract was granted to the Riobóo SA de CV for the adaptation and construction of the Interurban Train’s Santa Fe station in May 2022 with an intended delivery date of July 2022, and another 37.6 million-peso contract was granted for the company’s adaptation and construction of the project’s Observatorio Terminal.

While the Mexico City government claims Riobóo SA de CV’s work in the projects’ adaptations has been completed, construction still remains incomplete on both of the contracts. According to Mexico City’s Secretariat of Works, only 40 percent of progress has been made on the stations delegated to Riobóo – despite the first contract’s delivery date having been set for July 2022.

“In the ‘Santa Fe Special Viaduct,’ foundation piles and footings are built for the placement of prefabricated columns,” analyzed the Secretariat of Works. “And in the prefabrication plant, the construction of columns, heads, and beams to form the main body of the viaduct continues. General progress on this work is at 35 percent.”

“As for the activities at the Observatorio Terminal, foundation elements are being built (piers, shoes, and dice). In addition, dirt roads for the depressed, which will pass under the terminal station. In the parts manufacturing plant, columns and beams are built for the final confirmation of the structure,” added the Secretariat of Works.

Sheinbaum went on to hand Riobóo another bidless contract to create the technical notes for the rehabilitation of Mexico City’s Line 12 metro route, which notably experienced a fatal crash that left 26 dead due to construction failures in May 2023.

Within the last few years, Riobóo also purportedly received a 1.5 million-peso, bidless eight-month contract to construct the La Concordia vehicular bridge on the Mexico-Puebla highway from Sheinbaum’s administration.

The newly revealed controversy only piles onto Riobóo’s public problems, but it’s perhaps Sheinbaum whose career could be most affected by the bidless contracting scandal. As Sheinbaum continues to aim her ambitions toward the federal presidency, a culmination of issues – such as Riobóo’s contracts and the capital’s recent metro accidents – could potentially call the Mexico City mayor’s viability as a presidential candidate for 2024 into question.

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