Spotlight Shines on Political Corruption Ahead of State Elections This Year & 2006 Presidential Race

Article excerpt

Political corruption has reared its ugly head again in Mexico with the release of two separate videotapes showing a federal senator and an influential member of the Mexico City state legislature soliciting or accepting bribes. A third videotape was also released of a member of the Mexico City government spending lavishly at casinos in Las Vegas, Nevada. While political corruption has been common in Mexico for generations, the latest incidents have greater significance as the major political parties jockey for position ahead of the 2006 presidential elections.

Videotape shows PVEM leader soliciting bribes

The federal senator who was videotaped taking bribes in Cancun, Jorge Emilio Gonzalez Martinez, is also head of the Partido Verde Ecologista Mexicano (PVEM). Gonzalez Martinez, the son of PVEM founder Jorge Gonzalez Torres, is commonly known as "el nino verde" (the green kid) because he was only 29 when he took over the party leadership in 2001. He was key in the party's strategy to promote itself as a youthful and corruption-free alternative to traditional political parties.

In the videotape, Gonzalez offered to use his influence to convince city officials in the resort city to facilitate a construction permit for a business group in exchange for a US$2 million bribe. The bribe was allegedly sought from a representative of a Canadian business group, which was trying to bypass environmental regulations to construct a major resort in Cancun.

Gonzalez has easy access to the Cancun government because the city has been governed by the PVEM since 2002 when the party defeated the former governing Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) in a disputed election (see SourceMex, 2002-02-027).

The incriminating videotape, shown on several national television networks, including MVS television and Televisa, was filmed in secret by Santiago Leon Aveleyra, one of the leaders of the PVEM dissident group Democracia Verde. Leon and other disgruntled PVEM members have accused Gonzalez Martinez of adopting corrupt and autocratic practices in the management of the party and selection of candidates. In September 2003, a federal electoral court ordered the PVEM to restructure its leadership and hold new leadership elections (see SourceMex, 2003-09-10).

Gonzalez did not deny that he had brought up a request for money in the videotape but said he was just pretending to solicit a bribe to confirm rumors about the developer's alleged bad intentions.

Just days after the videotape was released, Leon made other allegations against Gonzalez, claiming that the PVEM delegation in the Mexico City legislature (Asamblea Legislativa del Distrito Federal, ALDF) had issued 750,000 pesos (US$68,000) in checks in one month to Gonzalez's housekeeper. In conjunction with the allegations, Leon and other PVEM dissidents filed a formal complaint with the attorney general's office (Procuraduria General de la Republica, PGR) accusing Gonzalez of embezzling party funds.

PVEM leaders say government has vendetta against party

Gonzalez accused Leon and other dissidents of working with President Vicente Fox's administration and other officials of the center-right Partido Accion Nacional (PAN) to discredit him before the 2006 election.

"The uncontrolled ambition of the government to destroy the PVEM has no limits," Gonzalez told the Monitor radio network. "The presidential succession is at stake for them."

Gonzalez, who was granted a leave of absence from the Senate after the scandal broke, went as far as to present a complaint before the Comision Nacional de Derechos Humanos (CNDH), accusing the government of entrapment. "We're going to show that there was no irregularity whatsoever," said Gonzalez.

Other PVEM leaders came to Gonzalez's defense, accusing the PAN of holding a grudge against their party for breaking the alliance that helped Fox win the presidency in 2000. …