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Guajardo, left, during trade talks Guajardo, left, at the conclusion of trade talks with Canadian negotiator Chrystia Freeland and Robert Lighthizer of the US.

Opposition, business rally in support of former minister charged with corruption

National Action Party called the charge 'political persecution by an authoritarian regime'

Opposition political parties and Mexico’s business community have rallied behind former economy minister Ildefonso Guajardo, whom federal authorities accuse of illicit enrichment.

The federal Attorney General’s Office (FGR) announced Friday that a federal judge had ordered Guajardo, economy minister during the entirety of former president Enrique Peña Nieto’s 2012-2018 term, to stand trial.

The FGR said its anti-corruption unit determined that the ex-official “probably” acquired “an unjustified increase to his wealth” between 2014 and 2018, adding that he was unable to prove its legal origin.

The former cabinet minister, who was recently elected as a federal deputy for the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and is due to take his seat in Congress on September 1, promptly denied the charge, asserting that the case against him amounted to “political persecution.”

The national leaders of the three main opposition parties all came to Guajardo’s defense, as did the president of the Business Coordinating Council (CCE), an influential umbrella organization representing 12 business groups.

“The political persecution of the Morena government against opponents of its authoritarian regime is absolutely unacceptable,” National Action Party (PAN) national president Marko Cortés wrote on Twitter. “Now it’s Ildefenso Guajardo’s turn. In the opposition bloc we will not be intimidated.”
Jesús Zambrano, national president of the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD), called the accusations “groundless” and charged that the federal government’s aim was to “break the [PAN-PRI-PRD] legislative coalition because he could play an important role in criticizing this government.”

PRI national president Alejandro Moreno expressed confidence that a judge would absolve the former minister and advised the federal government and Morena to instead focus on prosecuting corruption within their own ranks.

“Instead of using institutions to try and intimidate the opposition, the Morena government should shed light on the evident corruption and electoral crime inside Morena and the federal government. My total support to Ildefonso Guajardo in the face of this new onslaught by the state,” he wrote on Twitter.

“I know Ildefonso Guajardo and we’ve worked together on a lot of issues for the benefit of Nuevo León and Mexico. I trust that he will soon prove to authorities that his honorability and prestige remain intact,” said CCE president Carlos Salazar.

Several other opposition political figures, including former president Vicente Fox and ex-tourism minister Enrique de la Madrid, also took to Twitter to offer their support to Guajardo, who personally responded to many of the messages.

“Thanks for the support,” the former economy minister wrote in response to Fox’s tweet declaring “we’re with you!!”

“I trust that the [legal] process will be in accordance with the law and I will be allowed to prove with evidence that the accusation is unfair and without foundation. He who owes nothing, fears nothing,” wrote Guajardo, the former government’s chief negotiator in trade talks with the United States and Canada.

He also responded to a tweet by United States-based Mexico expert Duncan Wood, who wrote that it was “extraordinary and indefensible” that the Mexican government would go after someone as respected as Ildefonso Guajardo, “who did such an incredible job” as economy minister.

“Thank you Duncan for your kind words of support. I’ve worked hard during my more than 40 years of public service to comport myself honorably, ethically and always following the letter and spirit of the law. I’m confident of the outcome and I look forward to continuing to serve my country when I’m sworn in as … [a] federal congressman next month,” Guajardo wrote.

Meanwhile, the FGR rejected Guajardo’s claim in a written statement that the case against him “smells of political persecution.”

That claim is “completely false,” the FGR said in its own statement before rejecting an assertion that it has not allowed Guajardo and his lawyer to see the evidence it has gathered against the former.

The Attorney General’s Office said the Ministry of Public Administration (SFP) – the federal government’s internal corruption watchdog – filed a complaint against Guajardo last October and that its anti-corruption unit subsequently opened an investigation. Guajardo was notified of the case against him in March and granted access to all the evidence supplied by the SFP, the FGR said.

It added that it continued to keep the former economy minister abreast of additional evidence gathered against him up to the date of the court hearing at which he was ordered to stand trial.

“The main accusation” is that Guajardo has a foreign bank account with a balance of just under 8.17 million pesos (US $411,000), an amount the former official asserts came from the sale of a property he and his sister inherited, the FGR said.

However, documentation submitted by Guajardo shows that “his half doesn’t correspond in any way” to the amount he says he received, the FGR said.

“… He has been asked to show the origin of this inconsistency but he hasn’t done so. In the face of such circumstances, the only option … was the judicial trying of this case,” it said.

With reports from Expansión Política and Animal Político 

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