President López Obrador on Monday announced the replacement of Irma Sandoval as head of the government’s internal corruption watchdog.
The president said that Roberto Salcedo, who served under Sandoval as deputy minister for auditing and the fight against corruption, would become the new head of the Ministry of Public Administration (SFP).
“We thank Irma very much for her support. She is a woman who fights for justice and for democracy,” López Obrador said in a video message posted to social media, adding that she made “very important” contributions to the government’s fight against corruption and the implementation of its austerity policies.
“We are entering a new stage, and we are going to carry out new reforms,” the president said, citing a proposed constitutional change to save money by centralizing currently autonomous government agencies.
“… It’s a good change [in the leadership of the SFP] and … I thank Roberto for accepting the position,” he said in his office in the company of both Sandoval and Salcedo.
“… The aim is to continue combatting corruption, not allow corruption, to banish corruption from our country and to continue acting as an austere and honest government,” López Obrador said.
The president didn’t offer a specific reason for replacing Sandoval, a former academic who faced her own accusations of corruption last year, but Security Minister Rosa Rodríguez presented data earlier on Monday that showed that unspecified crimes committed by public servants increased 8% in the first five months of the year.
According to a report by the newspaper El Universal that cited unnamed government insiders, there were two main factors that led to her removal.
One was the media attention on Sandoval last year for allegedly failing to declare multimillion-peso properties she owns and the other was her support for her brother, Pablo Sandoval, to become the ruling Morena party’s candidate for governor in Guerrero over López Obrador’s preferred candidate, Félix Salgado.
The latter was nominated but ultimately replaced by his daughter after he was barred from running for failing to disclose his campaign expenses.
Sandoval’s support for her brother affected her previously close relationship with the president, El Universal said, noting also that the pair didn’t appear to be on the friendliest terms during their appearance together in López Obrador’s video.The video in which the president announced the departure of his minister of public administration.
“The presidential office seemed like a freezer this afternoon,” the newspaper said, adding that López Obrador announced the replacement of Sandoval in a “serious tone.”
“… She spoke … of the social struggle of her family, that she’s returning to UNAM [the National Autonomous University], that [Mexico’s] corruption perception statistics improved but she never managed a smile or [received] a gesture of empathy from President López Obrador, who looked a little bored …” El Universal said.
Sandoval highlighted that 200 billion pesos (US $9.8 billion) has been saved through austerity policies and that Mexico has risen 14 places on Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) since the new government took office. It currently ranks 124th out of 180 countries.
However, the newspaper Reforma, which is generally critical of the government, asserted that the outgoing public administration minister did not achieve “clear results” in the fight against corruption.
It noted that Mexico fell three places on the Americas Society/Council of the Americas 2021 Capacity to Combat Corruption Index and that Sandoval exonerated high-ranking officials of corruption charges.
“… She exonerated Federal Electricity Commission director, Manuel Bartlett, who failed to declare the existence of 23 homes and 12 companies in the name of his partner and children,” Reforma said.
“She also exonerated the former deputy [foreign affairs] minister for North America, Jesús Seade, who was accused of embezzlement and abuse of office for using public resources to pay for private travel.”