Category Archives: Corruption

Can Mexico overcome corruption?

Foreign Affairs – Public frustration with government is nothing new in Mexico, where corruption has long undermined the country’s development. According to the Mexican Institute for Competitiveness, a think tank, each year corruption costs the country between two and ten percent of its GDP, reduces investment by five percent, and eliminates 480,000 jobs from small- and medium-sized businesses. But recently, the Mexican government has begun to act on these issues.

Secret deal squeezes pharmaceutical sector

WSJ – Last August, Mexico’s antitrust commission approved the purchase of the country’s third-largest pharmaceutical distributor by a little-known Dutch fund, saying it didn’t believe the tie-up would hurt competition in the marketplace. What regulators didn’t know was that principal owner of Nadro, the country’s leading drug distributor, was actually behind the Dutch fund that bought Casa Marzam, Nadro’s rival.

Mexican business elite speak out against corruption in polite demonstration

The men and women in suits stopped short of calling their presence at the Angel "a protest."
The men and women in suits stopped short of calling their presence at the Angel “a protest.”

By Nathaniel Janowitz / Vice News

The Angel of Independence monument in the heart of Mexico City is often overrun by protesters seeking to highlight the grievances that abound in a country with 50 percent poverty and acute inequality.

The demonstrators who took over the landmark this Thursday came from rather different stock.

Instead of stopping traffic, the men and women in suits walked across the street in groups with the help of a traffic officer. Rather than shouting slogans, they played tranquil elevator music out of a PA system. They didn’t hold signs scrawled with insults in black marker. They did spell out their concern with large gold balloons held by younger staff — also in suits.

The balloons said “MX without corruption.”

“This is the first time that business owners have met up at the Angel of Independence,” said Gustavo de Hoyos Walther, the National President of COPARMEX, a business group that claims to represent more than 30 percent of Mexico’s GDP and nearly 5 million jobs. “We have come to say with one voice that we want to eradicate corruption from Mexico.”

The demonstration came two days after the senate approved a watered down version of an anti-corruption bill that had emerged from an unusual alliance between business owners and usually left-leaning NGOs. The weakened bill is now heading to the lower house for a second reading.

Antigraft legislation advances in Mexico’s congress

Mexico's President Enrique Peña Nieto, giving a speech at the National Palace in Mexico City on June 10. (Henry Romero/Reuters)
Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto, giving a speech at the National Palace in Mexico City on June 10. (Henry Romero/Reuters)

By Juan Montes / Wall Street Journal

Mexico’s Senate passed Wednesday an anticorruption bill requiring public servants to make their assets, tax returns and economic interests public, taking up a proposal signed by more than 600,000 citizens, while giving a new independent anticorruption body the power to protect information it considers may affect the private lives of public servants.

The bill is part of legislation for implementing constitutional changes made in April of last year to tackle corruption in government. The lower house is expected to vote on the legislation this week.

The bill was a compromise between President Enrique Peña Nieto’s government and the ruling party, which wanted to keep some information private for security reasons, and civil society organizations and some opposition lawmakers who favored full disclosure of assets.

Currently, public servants aren’t forced to make their statements public.

“This legislation is an improvement compared to what we had. It doesn’t include all that we demanded, but Mexico will have a stronger anticorruption legal framework and stronger and independent anticorruption authorities,” said Max Kaiser, an anticorruption expert at think tank IMCO, one of the leading nonprofits behind the citizens’ initiative.

Zetas cartel used Mexico prison as extermination camp for victims, enemies

Police officers stand outside the Piedras Negras jail after the escape of more than 130 inmates in September 2012. (Reuters)
Police officers stand outside the Piedras Negras jail after the escape of more than 130 inmates in September 2012. (Reuters)

By James Babcock / Telegraph

Members of the Zetas drug gang used a prison in northern Mexico as their private house of horrors where they tortured and killed kidnapping victims and underworld enemies, public prosecutors in the state of Coahuila have said.

Between 2009 and 2012, Piedras Negras prison became a virtual extermination camp, ruled with impunity by the notorious crime cartel as an operational base for their reign of terror in the US-Mexican border region.

After an investigation into the three-year period, authorities estimate that around 150 people were murdered inside the prison, with their bodies being burnt or broken down in acid-filled tanks before the remains were disposed of in a river some 20 miles away from the jail.

It is not clear to what extent the prison’s official guards actively cooperated with gang members or whether they merely allowed them to act with impunity in exchange for keeping order among inmates.

But prosecutors have revealed that Zetas’ prison leaders dressed up in uniforms as the prison’s de facto security force, wearing bulletproof vests and driving customised vehicles.

“We have received information that in this place was governed autonomously by the Zetas,” a spokesman for the Coahuila state prosecution force said on Wednesday after an investigation based on the testimony of 42 prisoners who were being held in Piedras Negras during that period.

Report accuses Mexico of crimes against humanity

NYT – A new report by the Open Society Justice Initiative, which works on criminal justice reforms around the world, points to a pattern of indiscriminate force and impunity that is an integral part of Mexican policy. And in the framework of international law, the study argues, the killings, forced disappearances and torture constitute crimes against humanity.

Indigenous forest defender said illegally jailed

Indian Country Today – Human rights advocates are calling for the immediate release of an Indigenous “prisoner of conscience” in Mexico who is an activist jailed on charges they assert were created to hide the fact that the man was fighting illegal logging in his region. In November 2015, Mexican authorities arrested Ildefonso Zamora in the Indigenous Tlahuica community of San Juan Atzingo on charges of participating in a burglary.

From 2012-2013, Veracruz government gave $34.9 million to shell companies

An investigation was opened into Veracruz ghost companies, but it went nowhere.
An investigation was opened into Veracruz ghost companies, but it went nowhere.

By Arturo Angel and Victor Hugo Arteaga / Animal Politico

Officials close to the governor of Veracruz, Javier Duarte, gave contracts to a network of ghost for the purchase of products to be used for vulnerable companies, but never reached their destination.

The procedure was simple: the start of the presidential term is selected PRI vote promoters are asked to provide signatures used to create new businesses. These companies were assigned a false tax domicile, that no authority reviews.

Once created, the companies were recorded as government suppliers, able to sell items from diapers to cement.

A small group of officials, close to the governor, ensured that contracts are awarded via direct awards or closed tenders. After getting the money, the companies closed.

Veracruz’s government used this same procedure over and over again, spending 645 million pesos ($34.9 million) between 2012 and 2013.

In those years, administration officials in Veracruz Javier Duarte signed 73 contracts for the purchase and distribution of goods which, on paper, would go to people in poverty, victims of natural disasters, children and elderly. But there is no evidence that they were delivered.

Witness in case of 43 students seeks U.S. asylum

NBC – In the hours after 43 students at the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers’ College in Mexico went missing, Carmelo Ramirez Morales sped to the scene where the students were taken away and gave a late-night press conference to local journalists. Then he hid from a hail of bullets. Now he is applying for asylum in Minnesota.

UN office “concerned” over Mexico missing students case

A woman protests with the parents of 43 missing students 18 months after their disappearance. (Yuri Cortex/AFP)
A woman protests with the parents of 43 missing students 18 months after their disappearance. (Yuri Cortex/AFP)

By Maria Verza / Associated Press

A U.N. human rights office said on Tuesday that it is troubled by a group of international experts’ complaints of obstacles to their investigation into the disappearance of 43 students in Mexico.

Rupert Colville, spokesman for the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in a statement that the office is “concerned about the many challenges and obstacles reported by the experts,” including the ability to examine other lines of investigation such the possible roles of the military and other officials in the case.

He called on the Mexican government to “take into serious consideration” the recommendations of the group of experts from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

The group’s report from Sunday criticized the government’s investigation of the 2014 disappearances. It said suspects were apparently tortured and key pieces of evidence were not investigated or handled properly.

Mexico looking at 33 named in “Panama Papers”

Washington Post – Mexican tax authorities say they are investigating 33 citizens of Mexico whose names are mentioned in documents in the “Panama Papers” leak. Tax authority head Aristoteles Nunez told Radio Formula on Wednesday that some of those mentioned in the documents were already subjects of investigations. He refused to identify those people.

Leaked documents show the Mexican president’s close friend moved $100 million offshore after corruption probe

Mexico's president, Enrique Peña Nieto, at a signing ceremony among the Pacific Alliance at the Climate Change Conference in Lima, Peru.
Mexico’s president, Enrique Peña Nieto, at a signing ceremony among the Pacific Alliance at the Climate Change Conference in Lima, Peru.

By Christopher Woody / Business Insider

In 2015, a Mexican contractor — and a close friend of Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto — moved roughly $100 million into accounts outside the country amid a corruption probe, according to details posted online by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).

The documents describing the transactions — which Business Insider has not seen — were part of a massive trove of financial documents revealing the offshore holdings of public officials, businesspeople, and other celebrities.

The records leaked by an international group of media outlets come from the Panama-based international law firm Mossack Fonseca, a global firm that also provides trust services and appears to have many high-profile clients.

One of those clients, Juan Armando Hinojosa Cantú, the contractor in question, enlisted Mossack Fonesca to have him create trusts for accounts worth $100 million after he was investigated for allegedly giving special favors to the Mexican president and his wife, according to an analysis of the documents by ICIJ.

That contractor’s companies have won more than 80 government contracts and received at least $2.8 billion in state money, The New York Times reported last year.

Anti-corruption efforts continue to languish in Mexico

Council of Foreign Relations – Corruption dominates Mexico’s headlines: helicopter rides for officials’ family members, housing deals from favored government contractors, the still unexplained disappearance of 43 students, and a drug lord escaping a maximum-security prison, for the second time. In a recent survey, Mexicans listed corruption as the country’s top problem, ahead of security and the economy.

Zetas turned prison into mass grave

InSight Crime – An ongoing investigation into the Zetas has revealed how this violent criminal group used a prison to dispose of over 150 victims, focusing attention on the shocking level of corruption within Mexico’s prison system and state governments. Investigators from the Disappeared Persons subdivision of Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office say the Zetas killed more than 150 people at the Piedras Negras prison in northern Coahuila state between 2010 and 2012.