President López Obrador today leveled a conflict of interest accusation against the head of Mexico’s energy sector regulator but without offering any details, saying that more information will be provided Monday.
The president’s claim comes after Energy Regulatory Commission (CRE) chief Guillermo García Alcocer criticized the candidates the president proposed to fill four positions on the commission’s governing body.
“As I have a right of reply, now I’m going to announce that the gentleman, the president of the CRE, has conflicts of interest and on Monday we’re going to announce all the information about why he has the conflicts of interest,” López Obrador said at his morning press conference.
He accused the CRE of awarding oil exploration contracts to private companies that didn’t generate any benefits for Pemex.
On Wednesday, García said López Obrador’s candidates don’t represent a sufficient breadth of knowledge and experience in the energy sector.
“I see an imbalance in terms of hydrocarbons and electricity. The profiles [of the candidates] look very skewed towards hydrocarbons. We practically can’t identify expertise in electricity and I believe that is something that is much needed [to understand] the complexities of the market,” he told the newspaper El Financiero.
Seven of 12 candidates put forward by the president and sent to the Senate are chemical engineers and 10 of them were formerly employed at Pemex.
In response to López Obrador’s conflict of interest accusation today, García said that he has “nothing to hide.”
In a radio interview, the CRE chief said that he is waiting to see what evidence López Obrador presents to support his claim but emphasized that he has worked in the public sector his whole life and always declared his interests.
García added that it is not up to him to formally assess the candidates proposed by the president, pointing out that the Senate has the responsibility to do so.
All he did, García said, was to highlight that it appeared that there are a lot of hydrocarbon experts on López Obrador’s list and no electricity specialists.
The president’s broadside against the CRE today was not the first time this week that he took aim at the commission.
On Monday, López Obrador asserted that it played a role in awarding contracts to three private companies to build natural gas pipelines that have cost the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE) billions of pesos but which remain incomplete.
The CRE rejected the claim, stating that while it approved the CFE’s tendering processes, it didn’t participate in them in any way.
García told the newspaper El Universal that both López Obrador and CFE chief Manuel Bartlett are misinformed about the role that the CRE plays as well as the contribution that private companies make to Mexico’s energy sector, charging that their presence has allowed the CFE to reduce its costs.
García said that he was willing to meet with the president to “inform him about all this” because “he needs to know us and know what we do,” adding “we’re open to collaboration, we’re part of the government and . . . we’re willing to talk.”
It’s been a big week for conflict of interest accusations by the federal government.
On Monday, Bartlett accused nine former public officials, including ex-president Felipe Calderón, of awarding energy contracts to private companies at which they would later work.
López Obrador promptly proposed a 10-year ban on officials going into the private sector in a field related to their government position, stating that he believed that joining the private sector soon after leaving government was not only illegal but immoral.