Anyone familiar with the zona hotelera in the resort city of Cancún would know that there are scores of luxury hotels with lavish pool areas and views of tranquil turquoise seas covering hectares and hectares of land – 9,500 in total.
Multiply the size of the area by six and that is how much of Quintana Roo’s public land that former governor Roberto Borge and his predecessor, Félix González Canto, allegedly sold to family, friends and associates at bargain prices.
Both governors represented the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).
The current National Action Party (PAN) administration has filed an accusation with the federal Attorney General’s office (PGR) in relation to 23 properties allegedly sold by Borge, who served as governor from 2011 to 2016 but is currently awaiting extradition proceedings in Panama, where he was arrested on June 5 on corruption charges.
The losses to the state add up to 9 billion pesos (US $500 million), says state Deputy and legislative president Eduardo Martínez.
“Since they lost government, between June 5, 2016 and August 2016, they dedicated themselves . . . to finalizing the buying and selling processes so that when the new government came in it was already done.”
One of the properties in question is on the tropical island of Cozumel, reached by ferry off the east coast of the state near the resort town of Playa del Carmen.
An extensive parcel of seafront, forested land on the island, a state nature reserve until May 2014, is now owned by 74-year-old María Rosa Yolanda Angulo, Roberto Borge’s mother.
The property was sold for some 6.5 million pesos or 137 pesos per square meter, a price well below its real market value of about 40 million pesos, according to the local government and real estate brokers.
Angulo’s capacity to raise the funds to buy the land, even at the reduced price, has raised questions about its legality, including one by a civil organization that advocates for government accountability and transparency, “Somos tus Ojos” (We’re Your Eyes).
“She’s a housewife that didn’t have access to those kinds of resources to make that purchase,” association president Fabiola Cortés said.
In 2015, Borge’s mother ceded part of the land to the company Siyenat del Caribe, whose sole administrator is César Celso, the Borge family lawyer and also presumed to be one of the ex-governors’ several prestanombres or front men.
The 68-year-old lawyer owns a further four properties on the island as does Borge’s mother.
Angulo paid a total of 28.5 million pesos for the other parcels of land on Cozumel but their commercial value at the time of purchase has been estimated at almost 150 million pesos, or more than five times the amount she paid.
She also acquired properties at bargain prices during González Canto’s administration when her son served as the ex-governor’s personal secretary.
“A closed circle of former officials, friends and family members of those friends were favored . . . so as to acquire the properties via prestanombres,” said state Attorney General Miguel Angel Pech.
Former local councilor Ramón Escalante sums up a sentiment undoubtedly shared by the ordinary citizens of the Caribbean coast state where tourism is the backbone of the economy.
“What we want is for them to have to pay for all those diversions [of money] that they made and for there to be prompt justice so that everyone that has embezzled money from the public funds of Quintana Roo is put behind bars.”
However, whether his wish becomes true remains to be seen as the extradition request from Panama has not yet been approved, while impunity in the Mexican justice system may be another factor.
Source: Milenio (sp)