Alejandro Moreno’s tenure as national leader of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) – and perhaps his entire political career – appears to be hanging by a thread.
Less than a month after making headlines for a callous remark he made about journalists while governor of Campeche, Moreno, widely known as “Alito,” is facing pressure to quit as PRI chief as well as accusations of illicit enrichment, tax fraud, money laundering and other crimes.
The 47-year-old deputy met on Tuesday with former PRI national presidents, who asked him to step down from the party’s top job to avoid another electoral disaster. Roberto Madrazo, César Camacho and Claudia Ruiz Massieu were among the former PRI chiefs who explicitly asked Moreno to resign, according to a report by the Reforma newspaper. Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong, a senator and interior minister during Enrique Peña Nieto’s 2012-18 presidency, also urged him to quit.
Moreno’s meeting with PRI heavyweights came just nine days after elections at which the ruling Morena party won four of six governorships up for grabs. Two of the states where Morena triumphed – Hidalgo and Oaxaca – are currently ruled by the PRI.
At Tuesday’s meeting, described in most reports as tense, the ex-party presidents reportedly told Moreno that there is growing internal dissatisfaction with his leadership of the PRI because he has managed the party’s affairs without consulting widely. They also said that this month’s poor election results would affect his capacity to lead the party.
In addition, Moreno’s reputation has taken a hit as a result of current Campeche Governor Layda Sansores’ recent dissemination of compromising audio recordings, including one in which he said that journalists should be starved to death.
Despite calls for him to resign, the party chief has vowed to stay in the job until his designated term ends in August 2023, two months after gubernatorial elections in México state – a traditional PRI heartland – and Coahuila. However, Moreno has conceded that he is not in a position to seek the party’s backing to run as a presidential candidate in 2024.
His ability to stay on as PRI national president and to continue to represent the party in federal Congress could be threatened by the criminal charges he faces in his home state of Campeche. The state Attorney General’s Office is investigating the former governor for illicit enrichment, tax fraud, money laundering, abuse of authority, embezzlement and improper use of powers, Reforma reported.
While a federal deputy between 2012 and 2015, Moreno allegedly bought at least 13 lots in an exclusive residential estate in Campeche and subsequently concealed his apparent ownership of the land. His purchase was plagued by “presumed irregularities,” Reforma said.
As part of its investigations, the Campeche Attorney General’s Office on Tuesday dispatched police to the Lomas del Castillo estate, where Morena owns a large home. The officers parked in front of the PRI chief’s residence and took photographs and video footage of it, Reforma said. The newspaper also said the officers asked to inspect a total of 25 homes and lots in the estate.
State Attorney General Renato Sales told Reforma that investigators are seeking to determine which properties are owned by Moreno. “There are some in his name in the public property registry and others are in the name of family members, acquaintances, friends, his brother,” he said.
Mexicans Against Corruption and Impunity (MCCI), a non-governmental organization, said in a report last week that Moreno “used his political influence and power to triangulate money through the purchase and sale of properties with the objective of leaving no trace on his declarations of assets or … [in documents submitted to] tax authorities.”
The PRI chief promptly issued a statement to deny the accusation. Despite the pressure he is currently under, Moreno is keeping up appearances – at least on his Twitter account.
“United, nothing can stop us,” he tweeted Tuesday above a photo in which he appears with the PRI leaders of all 32 federal entities. “Here we are united, moving forward as a team, putting the membership of each entity first,” Moreno wrote Wednesday in another post that featured him happily interacting with party officials.
Equally happy, and perhaps more so, is Morena party leader Mario Delgado. He tweeted on Wednesday that his rival should continue as leader. “He has helped us a lot in the growth of our movement …”
With reports from Reforma