Mexico’s customs chief has quit his post less than a year after President López Obrador gave him the responsibility of cleaning up corruption in the department.
López Obrador confirmed on Friday morning that Ricardo Ahued had tendered his resignation and would be returning to the upper house of Congress as a senator for Veracruz with the ruling Morena party.
“He told me he wants to be in the Senate,” the president said. “Ricardo Ahued is a man of integrity, a good person, an honest man,” he said.
Despite his kind words for the outgoing administrator, López Obrador conceded that he hadn’t been successful in stamping out corruption in customs, a department that has been plagued with problems of that nature.
Ahued became customs chief last June and two months later met with the president in the National Palace, where he was explicitly instructed to eliminate corruption at the nation’s airports, ports and border crossings.
López Obrador admitted today, however, that the job is still “outstanding.”
“Is the problem very big?” a reporter asked.
“Yes, it’s like the homicide problem [but] … we’re going to keep moving forward, providing an example that there is no corruption, impunity, conspiracy between crime and authorities,” López Obrador said.
“In the case of customs, a [new] cleansing is coming, … attempts have been made [to eliminate corruption] but it’s a monster, … a 100-headed one.”
For his part, Ahued said that his decision to vacate his customs role at the end of the month was a personal one.
He said that he was leaving the position with his head held high and that he was determined to fulfill his responsibility of representing the people of Veracruz in the Senate.
Under his leadership, customs authorities identified three cargo airlines last August that were believed to be bringing pirated goods into the country via the Mexico City International Airport. The newspaper El Universal reported the same month that complicity between several criminal groups and corrupt customs employees at the airport had facilitated the illegal import of weapons, drugs and counterfeit goods.
According to the Defense Ministry, “the corruption problem at customs offices fosters organized crime activities such as the smuggling of arms, drugs, chemical precursors, cash and goods in general.”