Thursday, June 13, 2024

Tapes reveal interference in Supreme Court by attorney general

Attorney General Alejandro Gertz Manero is embroiled in controversy after recordings were leaked of conversations he allegedly had with a colleague about a case involving the death of his brother that will be considered by the Supreme Court (SCJN) next week.

In recordings of an apparent telephone conversation uploaded to YouTube late last week, a man believed to be Gertz speaks to a man believed to be Juan Ramos López, head of the federal crimes unit of the federal Attorney General’s Office (FGR).

They discuss a case in which the wife of Federico Gertz Manero and her daughter are accused of “homicide by omission” for failing to provide adequate medical care to the attorney general’s brother, who died in 2015 at the age of 82.

The 69-year-old daughter, Alejandra Cuevas Morán, has been in prison for over a year awaiting trial. Laura Morán, 95, has avoided prison due to her age. The two women deny any wrongdoing and their appeals have now reached the nation’s highest court.

In the audio recording, the person believed to be the attorney general (hereafter referred to simply as Gertz) claimed that Supreme Court Justice Alberto Pérez Dayán intends to free Cuevas. Both men agreed that the SCJN has not complied with an agreement it apparently had with the FGR vis-à-vis its consideration of the case, suggesting that Gertz sought to interfere in the work of the Supreme Court.

Alejandro Cuevas, seen here with her son Alonso Castillo, Alejandra Cuevas Morán, has been in prison for over a year awaiting trial.
Alejandra Cuevas, seen here with her son Alonso Castillo, has been in prison for over a year awaiting trial.

Gertz reveals that he has a copy of the proposed SCJN ruling, which would apparently pave the way for Cuevas to be released provided it is approved at a court sitting on March 14. The court also appears set to uphold a favorable injunction Morán was granted by a lower court.

In one recording, Gertz calls Cuevas an “asshole” and asks an assistant how appeals can be used to avoid her release, revealing an apparent lack of legal knowledge from the country’s top law enforcement official.

Cuevas’ son told the Associated Press that the recordings were indicative of systematic violations by the FGR.

“There is no end of crimes here. One of the most serious is that the court appears to have sent the opinion to the Attorney General’s Office. That is a crime because they are confidential” documents, Alonso Castillo said.

“There is influence peddling, abuse of power. In other words, the implications of these recordings are tremendous.”

Castillo said on Twitter that his family had never received a copy of a proposed court ruling in advance, writing, “It would be improper, our conduct has always been in accordance with the law.”

Family of Alejandra Cuevas, the daughter of Gertz' sister-in-law, protest outside the Supreme Court in 2021.
Family of Alejandra Cuevas, the jailed daughter of Gertz’ sister-in-law, protest outside the Supreme Court in 2021.

The FGR hasn’t confirmed the authenticity of the recordings, but did say it would investigate the leak, suggesting it believed they are genuine. It is unclear who leaked them or how they were obtained.

Writing in the newspaper El Financiero, columnist Raymundo Riva Palacios said the clarity of the recordings suggested that the conversations were intercepted using sophisticated equipment, and raised the possibility that they were obtained and leaked by members of the government.

“The armed forces, the Attorney General’s Office and National Intelligence Center have the best technology, and therefore the relationship Gertz has with the security cabinet is relevant. Federal officials say it’s very bad. An in-person security cabinet [meeting] was going to be held recently, but the majority of the members sabotaged it because they didn’t want to be with him,” he wrote.

Pérez Dayán is not the only Supreme Court justice implicated, Riva wrote, noting that Gertz claimed that Chief Justice Arturo Zaldívar is in cahoots with him.

“The probable crime of malfeasance hangs over their heads,” he wrote.

Some opposition lawmakers and party leaders have called on Gertz to resign, while President López Obrador on Monday said he retained confidence in the attorney general.

“I didn’t listen to [the recordings], but I have the basic information,” the president told reporters at his regular news conference.

“The court has to resolve this case. I understand the personal, moral human situation of the attorney general because it’s about an issue linked to his brother, he wants justice to be served. The other party is defending its version of events. In any case, it will be resolved by the judicial power,” he said.

López Obrador said the aim of leaking the audio was to “take the attorney general down.”

“That’s not in the best interest of Mexicans. Something that businesspeople are grateful for is that there is governability and political stability so let’s not bet on instability,” he said.

“We have to be careful because there are a lot of conflicting interests. … I understand that the SCJN will rule on this case next week. … We don’t intervene, the president no longer intervenes in these issues, no one is harassed, crimes aren’t fabricated like before. The autonomy of the Attorney General’s Office and the SCJN is guaranteed,” López Obrador said.

Gertz, appointed to a nine-year term as attorney general in January 2019, has previously been accused of misusing his position in connection with a corruption case against 31 academics. The academics have denied any wrongdoing.

With reports from Proceso, El Universal, Reforma, AP and El Financiero

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