Monday, June 24, 2024

‘Impunity pact:’ Ex-Pemex CEO back in limelight after dining in swank city restaurant

Opposition lawmakers and journalists have lambasted federal authorities for their alleged preferential treatment of former Pemex CEO Emilio Lozoya after the suspect of high-level corruption was seen dining at a high-end Mexico City restaurant on Saturday.

Lozoya, accused of receiving multimillion-dollar bribes while head of the state oil company during the previous federal government, was photographed by journalist Lourdes Mendoza while eating dinner with four companions at the Chinese restaurant Hunan, located in the capital’s affluent Lomas district.

Mendoza asserted on Twitter that her photos serve as evidence of an “impunity pact” between the ex-Pemex chief and the federal Attorney General’s Office (FGR).

“[The FGR] accuses innocent people while he enjoys the high life to which he is accustomed. The height of shamelessness,” she wrote.

Some journalists, opposition lawmakers and others questioned why Lozoya – who has been given protected witness status in exchange for cooperating with authorities on a probe into a corruption case involving Brazilian company Odebrecht and Mexican steelmaker Altos Hornos de México – has not been remanded in preventative custody while he awaits trial.

(Despite fleeing to Spain, where he was arrested in early 2020, and being accused of criminal association and money laundering in addition to receiving bribes, the former Pemex chief is living a relatively free life in Mexico City, although he is required to wear a tracking bracelet and check in periodically with authorities.)

“[While] Emilio Lozoya eats his chicken with chestnuts and cashews, we take authorized food to prison for my mom who didn’t commit a crime,” said journalist Alonso Castillo Cuevas, whose mother is accused of murdering the brother of Attorney General Alejandro Gertz.

“… The emperor Gertz lets criminals go free and [puts] innocent people in [jail] cells,” he wrote on Twitter.

“Today’s menu for Emilio Lozoya in Hunan in Las Lomas: corruption as a starter, impunity for the main course and shamelessness for dessert,” tweeted National Action Party (PAN) Senator Xóchitl Gálvez.

Kenia López Rabadán, another PAN senator, took aim at the federal government on the same social media platform.

“This country deserves another government! While [former PAN president and 2018 presidential candidate] Ricardo Anaya is a politically persecuted person … the corrupt Emilio Lozoya, who did receive millions of dollars, dines in total luxury. Where’s the justice AMLO?” she wrote, referring to President López Obrador by his nickname.

Independent Senator Emilio Álvarez questioned why federal authorities aren’t going after Lozoya with the same rigor with which they are pursuing Anaya – who appears to be positioning himself for another run at the presidency in 2024 – scientists and others.

In addition to avoiding preventative custody, apparently because he is in poor health, the 46-year-old former official has managed to postpone his trial on five occasions on the grounds that his legal team is still collecting evidence for his defense.

Some people Lozoya has implicated in the Odebrecht/Altos Hornos de México corruption case have not been as fortunate as Lozoya.

One such person is former PAN senator Jorge Luis Lavalle, who has been in prison for months despite facing the same charges as the ex-Pemex chief.

Lavalle is one of several PAN lawmakers, including Anaya and current Tamaulipas Governor Francisco García Cabeza de Vaca, whom Lozoya has accused of receiving bribes from the former federal government in exchange for supporting its 2013-14 structural reforms.

The former state oil company boss has accused former president Enrique Peña Nieto and ex-cabinet minister Luis Videgaray of leading the bribery scheme and asserted that the money came from Odebrecht. He has admitted to arranging for bribes to be paid to lawmakers but claimed that he was coerced by the ex-president and former minister in testimony in which he effectively depicted himself as a victim of their corruption.

The FGR appears to have accepted his claims, alleging in a document obtained by the newspaper Reforma late last year that Peña Nieto, in office from 2012 to 2018, used Videgaray and Lozoya as pawns in the criminal scheme he headed up.

The former Pemex chief is currently seeking acquittal in exchange for his cooperation with authorities, according to the newspaper Milenio, but he hasn’t yet obtained what he wants.

López Obrador frequently asserts that his government is committed to ending impunity and won’t provide protection for anyone but there is a growing view that Lozoya may well evade justice.

“The image of ex-director of Pemex, Emilio Lozoya, dining relaxed and free from shame in a restaurant in Lomas de Chapultepec is the graphic representation of two truths and one big lie,” columnist Salvador García Soto wrote in El Universal.

“The two truths that the photograph reveals are the impunity that still reigns in Mexico for powerful and influential politicians and the complete failure of the first autonomous prosecutor’s office [the FGR], which has turned out to be just as ineffective as it is politically compromised. And the big lie is that which the president repeats every morning like a street vendor from the National Palace: ‘There is no longer corruption and impunity has ended.’”

With reports from Reforma, El Universal, Milenio and Animal Político 

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