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Politicians Under Fire in Mexico

This week, two mayors in the state of Michoacán were arrested by the Procuraduría General de Justicia del Estado de Michoacán (Attorney General of the State of Michoacán—PGJE ). Uriel Chávez, the mayor of Apatzingan and a member of the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (Institutional Revolutionary Party—PRI), and Noé Aburto Inclán, mayor of Tacámbaro and a member of the Partido Acción Nacional (National Action Party—PAN), were detained on suspicion of extortion and embezzlement, respectively. 

As if Mexicans needed more reasons to distrust their elected officials, two other cases this month, coming from the PRI, show just how low some publicly elected officials are willing to stoop in a country plagued by impunity.

Cuauhtémoc Gutiérrez was the president of the PRI in Mexico City until April 2, 2014. Gutiérrez is the son of the late Rafael Gutiérrez—a former council member for the PRI in Mexico City known as the “The King of Trash” because he led the capital city’s trash collectors’ union for more than 20 years.  Rafael Gutiérrez’s wife, Martha García, confessed to having the “The King of Trash” murdered in 1987. She justified the murder by saying she had endured 11 years of physical abuse from her husband, and also said that Gutiérrez had sexually abused his underage niece.

Apparently Cuauhtémoc has followed in his father’s footsteps. A recent investigation by Noticias MVS radio journalist Carmen Aristegui  reported that Gutiérrez’ office ran ads to hire 18 to 32-year-old women as hostesses that were also expected to provide Gutiérrez sexual favors in exchange for higher pay. In recorded testimonies, four victims mention performing sexual favors for Gutiérrez inside Mexico City’s PRI offices, as well as accompanying him on business trips and to nighttime events. The Procuraduría de Justicia (Justice Department) in Mexico City is now investigating the case.

Gutiérrez has denied the allegations and denounced the MVS report. However, after the investigation surfaced, the PRI’s national leadership immediately stripped him of his position. Emilio Gamboa, the PRI’s senate leader, declared that Gutiérrez should face these charges alone and that “you can’t charge a whole party for one person’s actions.”

The case of the Jesús Reyna from the PRI also reached national headlines this month.  A two-time federal congressman, Reyna is a former interim governor of Michoacán and current minister of the interior for Michoacán’s state government. On April 4, the Procuraduría General de la República (Attorney General’s Office—PGR) ordered Reyna’s detention as part of an ongoing investigation of possible links between the politician and the criminal organization known as the Knights Templar.

El Universal revealed that the PGR began investigating Reyna after learning that the former governor had been in meetings with the Knights Templar’s leaders, Servando Gómez (“La Tuta”) and Nazario Moreno (“El Chayo”) in 2011.

Unfortunately, the recent cases are not scandals by exception. A look back through Mexico’s recent political history includes cases of corruption and crime across the three major political parties. Some of the recent scandals include allegations of fraud against the former D.F. secretary of finance, Gustavo Ponce of the Partido de la Revolución Democrática (Party of the Democratic Revolution—PRD)—although he was later released for lack of evidence—and the René Bejarano (PRD) video scandal, which earned the former president of the Comisión de Gobierno of the legislative assembly the nickname “the king of rubber bands” after he was seen  receiving up to 8 million in pesos and dollars in rubber band-bound wads of cash from businessman Carlos Ahumada.  

As far as the PAN goes, the current mayor of Monterrey, Margarita Arellanes, has raised some questions after her purchase of a $1,543,860 (20 million peso) home on a $7,805.90 (101,377 peso) a month salary.

You can’t charge a whole party for one person’s actions, says Gamboa, and he’s right. But with cases like the ones herein mentioned piling up in Mexico’s political history, you start to wonder if the problem has shifted from particular exceptions, to a generalized rule.             

*Arjan Shahani is a contributing blogger to AQ Online. He lives in Monterrey, Mexico, and is an MBA graduate from Thunderbird University and Tecnológico de Monterrey and a member of the International Advisory Board of Global Majority—an international non-profit organization dedicated to the promotion of non-violent conflict resolution.

Any opinions expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect those of Americas Quarterly or its publishers.
Tags: Mexico, corruption, Mexican politics

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