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Odebrecht case in Mexico smokes two months after an explosive start

The first hearing of Emilio Lozoya, former director of Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex) and the first Mexican implicated in the Odebrecht case, turns two months this Monday with weeks of silence after an explosive start full of leaks and video scandals.

Against this background, specialists in the fight against corruption expressed to Efe their concern that the matter would go up in smoke despite the promises of the president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who considers it an emblematic case of the “neoliberal period.”

“We are waiting to see if there is also political will for this to be carried out, that is, if all this, as critics have said, is just a media show that basically has electoral purposes”, comments Mara Gómez, coordinator of the justice program of Mexico Evalúa.


THE FIRST MAXIPROCESS

The former head of Pemex from 2012 to 2016 during the Presidency of Enrique Peña Nieto (2012-2018) shook Mexican politics since his extradition from Spain on July 17 and his first hearing on July 28.

Lozoya denounced former President Peña Nieto and former Secretary of the Treasury, Luis Videgaray, to the Attorney General’s Office.

He accused them of “ordering” him to receive $ 10.5 million from Odebrecht for the electoral campaign and for bribing legislators from the opposition National Action Party (PAN) in favor of the energy reform that opened the sector to private investment in 2013.

But Lozoya also pointed to Felipe Calderón’s six-year term (2006-2012) for alleged privileges for the petrochemical company Etileno XXI, linked to a Mexican company that is an Odebrecht partner.

For this reason, the expert from Mexico Evalúa sees an opportunity to carry out the first maxiprocess, a coordination between the police, the prosecution and the judges that treat the case as an organized structure instead of individual crimes.

For this, it points to recent reforms that created the figures of the criterion of opportunity and protected witness that will allow Lozoya to provide evidence in exchange for protection.

“It must also be related, and it is something that remains to be investigated, with the endemic violence in Mexico and the great violations of human rights, so it is not a case that we should see in isolation, it is a case that is touching the center” , expresses Gómez.


THE ‘MORNING’ JUDGMENT

President López Obrador also provokes criticism because he has used his morning press conferences to air evidence, revile designated opponents and ask the Prosecutor’s Office to release evidence, says Eduardo Bohórquez, director of Transparencia Mexicana.

“He is politically using the Lozoya case to prepare the ground for the 2021 election (midterm elections), but that does not mean that he is the authorized spokesperson to make the process transparent, that corresponds to the General Transparency Law and the General Prosecutor’s Office”, the expert observes.

Bohórquez recognizes that it is necessary to “make the whole process transparent,” as the president has requested, but he demands to do so with respect for the law and the autonomy that the FGR should have.

The specialist highlights the examples of Brazil and Peru, where the hearings of the Odebrecht case were open to the public, something that does not happen in Mexico.

“It is so important that the case be processed openly because we do not need interpreters, society is a mature society that must form its own opinion from what it sees and is given within the judicial process,” he says.


VIDEOSCANDING AND THE ‘UNWATCHED’ PROCESS

In his conferences, the president has also exhibited images of alleged former Pemex officials who give money to former PAN collaborators in Congress, something that stopped after a video of López Obrador’s brother was released in which he received “contributions” for the campaign.

This “messy process” would make it difficult to judge Lozoya, warns Luis Ángel Martínez, an anti-corruption specialist at Ethos: Public Policy Laboratory.

“If Lozoya does not like the sentence, it is almost a fact that he is going to be protected because the whole process had an initial failure in due process when the complaint is filtered and videos appear where he is supposedly involved,” he explains.

Martínez regrets that Mexico is facing the possibility of losing “another opportunity” to solve a momentous case, as with the corruption scheme of the Master Scam of the Peña Nieto government.

“It is a whole international network of corruption and we can learn all this, if the Lozoya issue were done correctly using the entire National Anti-Corruption System as it should be, however, I do not see that the entire scheme is being used to investigate all the allegedly involved “, he concludes.









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