President López Obrador launched another attack on autonomous government agencies today, describing them as “a great farce,” while a cabinet secretary offered details about a conflict of interest accusation leveled at the head of Mexico’s energy sector regulator.
Speaking at his morning press conference, López Obrador accused the autonomous regulators of the energy sector – namely the Energy Regulatory Commission (CRE) and the National Hydrocarbons Commission – of being complicit with the corrupt management by past governments of state-owned companies such as Pemex and the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE).
“They maintained relationships with private companies that benefited from contracts both with the CFE and Pemex,” he said.
López Obrador was also critical of the conduct of the regulators of the banking and telecommunications sectors, among others.
The rebuke follows a claim from the president last week that autonomous public organizations have been guilty of “facilitating theft” by corrupt officials.
On Friday, López Obrador also leveled a conflict of interest accusation at CRE chief Guillermo García Alcocer, although he didn’t present any evidence to support it.
Public Administration Secretary Irma Sandoval elaborated on the allegation today, saying that a contract had been found for the transportation of natural gas that was awarded to a company at which a family member of García works.
The contract, awarded in June 2017 to the energy company Fermaca – whose director, Santiago García Castellanos, is the first cousin of García’s wife – was not declared by the CRE chief, Sandoval said.
The cabinet secretary said that a probe into the awarding of the contract is taking place, adding that the government is also investigating whether there are any other agreements approved by the CRE which have benefited García or his relatives.
Sandoval pointed out that Alcocer himself admitted in 2016 that his wife’s brother, Mario Barreido, works for the Danish wind turbine manufacturer Vestas.
Alcocer argued at the time that his brother-in-law’s employment at the company didn’t represent a conflict of interest because Vestas is not regulated by the CRE.
But Sandoval said today that Barreido actually works for Vestas’ Mexican subsidiary, which is regulated by the CRE.
She also said that Barreido is the legal representative of three other companies which have interests in Mexico’s energy sector.
“He [García] shouldn’t be there [at the head of the CRE],” López Obrador declared.
The president’s initial unsubstantiated accusation against the official came after the latter criticized the president’s choice of candidates to fill four positions on the CRE’s governing body.
García subsequently said he had “nothing to hide” and was waiting for the government to present its evidence against him.
López Obrador said today that his view that García should not be CRE chief is “not because he questioned us,” stating that “the issue is deeper than that” and that “he deceived the people of Mexico.”
He also pledged to “purify” autonomous government agencies “because they were completely at the service of private interests.”
The organizations’ budgets have already been cut, a move that the government has explained is in accordance with its policy of austerity.
The National Electoral Institute (INE), the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) and the Federal Telecommunications Institute (IFT) are among the autonomous agencies that have seen their 2019 funding slashed to the tune of hundreds of millions of pesos.