Mexican Governor says his State is being punished for corruption inquiry

**Javier Corral, the governor of Chihuahua, at a news conference in Mexico City on Monday. Credit: Daniel Becerril/ Reuters


Mexican Governor says his State is being punished for corruption inquiry

La Crónica de Chihuahua
8 de enero, 18:30 pm

By Azam Ahmed and Paulina Villegas/
The New York Times

Jan. 8, 2018
MEXICO CITY.- A Mexican governor said Monday that the government of President Enrique Peña Nieto was denying his state vital resources in order to squash a corruption investigation that reaches the highest ranks of the nation’s governing party.

The governor, Javier Corral, was promised millions of dollars last December by the federal government to help fill budget shortfalls in his state, Chihuahua, which is in the midst of a financial crisis. But the federal Ministry of Finance has refused to deposit some of the funds, Mr. Corral said at a news conference on Monday in Mexico City.

The governor described a 20-minute meeting he attended with the minister of finance and other officials on Jan. 4 at which the minister himself said Chihuahua would not get the agreed-upon money unless state officials told the minister more about the investigation.

“We were taken by surprise,” Mr. Corral told a crowd of reporters gathered at a hotel. “They could have sugarcoated it, but they said it clearly and outright.”

Another attendee at the meeting, Mr. Corral’s state finance chief, backed up the governor’s version of events in an interview with The New York Times.

In a written statement the minister of finance claimed that nearly $4 million dollars was not paid to the state partly because of an incorrect bank account and partly because of a lack of available funds.

The ministry declined to comment on the accounts of the meeting.

The case in question has the potential to be explosive: State prosecutors in Chihuahua are examining the alleged embezzlement of more than $10 million in public funds used to finance the campaigns of candidates from the president’s political party, according to hundreds of documents and testimony by former state officials reviewed by The Times.

The case has already ensnared more than two dozen people, including an ally of the president and a high-ranking member of his party, Alejandro Gutiérrez, who is accused of operating the embezzlement scheme nationwide.

The arrest has rattled officials in Mexico City, where the governing Institutional Revolutionary Party, known as the PRI, presides over the federal government. Mr. Gutiérrez was a top financial aide to the former president of the party, Manlio Fabio Beltrones, a major power broker who has also been described as the mastermind of the embezzlement scheme, according to the documents reviewed by The Times.

The investigation has the potential to derail the party’s ambitions to maintain power in this year’s presidential elections. Corruption and impunity have been stains on the legacy of Mr. Peña Nieto, who is suffering some of the worst approval ratings in a quarter century. As the nation hurtles toward elections this summer, analysts say the PRI is growing desperate to keep a lid on any potential corruption scandals.

It is in this environment that Mr. Corral, a governor who hails from an opposition party, has set out on his crusade against corruption. Now, the governor appears to be gambling with his state’s finances to preserve his investigation.

“There is a clear intention to financially strangle the state,” Mr. Corral said.

On Monday, the governor cried foul publicly, claiming that the federal government had reneged on its commitment to Chihuahua. According to documents reviewed by The Times, the federal Ministry of Finance signed four agreements in December with officials in Chihuahua promising to transfer roughly $5 million to the state by the end of the month.

As the year’s end drew near, Mr. Corral said, the money had not arrived. To date, only one of the agreed payments, for roughly $1 million, has been sent, state officials said.

But when Mr. Corral called to inquire about the missing funds, he said, he was told a meeting in person was required to resolve the matter.

Pressed for time, and with state salaries to pay, Mr. Corral said he had been forced to take a bank loan to cover the shortfall, a costly expenditure for a state with ailing finances. Several days passed before Mr. Corral said he was able to sit down with the minister of finance, José Antonio González Anaya.

In the meeting, the governor said, Mr. Anaya at first told Mr. Corral that there was an issue with the funds because they appeared to be similar to those associated with the investigation underway in his state. Given the conflict, and Mr. Corral’s position that previous transfers were used to embezzle funds, the minister was not sure how he could transfer the money, Mr. Corral recalled being told.

The governor said he had stood firm, saying he believed they were two separate issues. One was the abuse of public funds for political purposes, which took place under the last governor, who was a star member of the president’s party. The other involved the signed agreements from Dec. 14 promising nearly $5 million in federal funds to fill a state budget hole, according to the four agreements reviewed by The Times.

Mr. Corral said that the finance minister then openly asked him about the investigation, and that he had told him the funds would not be transferred until there was more clarity about the case. Mr. Corral said he took the comment as direct pressure to halt the investigation in order to save his state.

“We are aware we struck at the modus operandi of political corruption in Mexico, but the difference is that we have accounted for it technically and legally,” Mr. Corral said. “We won’t give up the fight to break the pact of impunity, regardless of the retaliation and punishment.”

¡Sea el primero en escribir un comentario!

---ooOoo---