Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Lawmakers appear to have fled as Congress removes immunity

Protection from prosecution of two federal deputies was removed on Wednesday, but apprehending them has already proved a problem: one has disappeared, and the other flew to Chile on July 26.

The two were previously protected by the immunity to prosecution afforded to lawmakers, but the Chamber of Deputies voted to remove their privileges, just 21 days before the end of the legislature.

Morena Deputy Benjamín Saúl Huerta, 63, was arrested on April 21 for the assault of a 15-year-old boy in a Mexico City hotel, but was released due to his immunity, and new accusations have since come to light.

On Friday, authorities lost track of Huerta, who was considered a flight risk. Just the previous day, the deputy for Puebla had called on prosecutors to study the case filed against him, but his request was rejected.

Huerta’s defense team is negotiating his voluntary surrender to authorities, according to the newspaper El Universal.

Parents of the boy who has accused a federal deputy of sexual assault
Parents of the boy who has accused a federal deputy of sexual assault wait outside Congress for the results of the immunity vote.

Shortly before his April arrest, Imagen Televisíon published audio of a telephone conversation allegedly between Huerta and the 15-year-old boy’s mother, in which he tries to reach a financial settlement. “Don’t destroy me,” he pleads with her on repeated occasions. “Let’s reach an economic agreement. … I’m begging you, help me; you’re going to destroy me. I’m a good person.”

Huerta voluntarily decided not to run in the June 6 elections.

Labor Party (PT) Deputy Mauricio Toledo, 41, was stripped of his immunity due to accusations of corruption during his time in public office from 2012-2018. He heard the news from Chile, having left Mexico more than a fortnight before.

In Wednesday’s session, Mexico City corruption prosecutor Rafael Chong said that Toledo’s income over the period was 20.8 million pesos (about US $1.05 million), while his official salary was less than half that.

He added that the Financial Intelligence Unit had detected that in 2017 the legislator received 3.4 million pesos (about $171,000) from a company called Consultoría de Gestión Empresarial Lebrija, which reported zero revenue in 2016, and that seven months after Toledo took office as a deputy, he bought two apartments in cash for 6.2 million pesos, more than five times his annual salary.

Toledo wrote on Twitter to reject claims he had fled. “My legal acts are not subject to political persecution … Mexicans freely enter and leave the country. It is a right enshrined in the Constitution and international human rights treaties signed by Mexico.”

He added that his departure was not related to politics. “I am the son of Chilean parents, and my departure from the country is due to commitments made in advance.”

Congress has appeared to have been reluctant to remove the deputies’ fuero, as the immunity is known. The process has stalled several times, earning a rebuke last week from a federal deputy minister for the delay in removing that of Huerta.

With reports from El Universal and El Financiero 

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