Campaign-Finance Scandal Could Damage Former-Governing Partido Revolucionario Institucional

Article excerpt

Mexico's oldest political party, the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI), could be fighting for its survival if authorities can prove charges that the party committed massive electoral fraud in the 2000 presidential election.

The federal comptroller's office (Secretaria de Contraloria y Desarrollo Administrativo, SECODAM) has alleged that several high-level officials at the state-run oil company PEMEX and the petroleum workers union (Sindicato de Trabajadores Petroleros de la Republica Mexicana, STPRM) misappropriated millions of pesos from the company treasury and used these funds to finance the campaign of PRI candidate Francisco Labastida Ochoa. Labastida lost by a wide margin to President Vicente Fox Quesada (see SourceMex, 2000-07-05).

Federal Comptroller Francisco Barrio said the government's organized-crime division (Unidad Especializada en Delincuencia Organizada, UEDO) has frozen the bank accounts of nine current and former PEMEX executives and one account controlled by the STPRM. Prominent on the list of those being investigated are former PEMEX director Rogelio Montemayor Seguy and STPRM leader Sen. Carlos Romero Deschamps. Montemayor, a former governor of Coahuila state, was appointed to head PEMEX at the end of 1999, following the surprise resignation of long-time director Adrian Lajous (see SourceMex, 1999-12-22).

Investigators say PEMEX funds used for 2000 campaign

The UEDO investigation is focusing on allegations that Montemayor and other PEMEX officials illegally laundered more than 120 million pesos (US$13 million) in PEMEX operating funds via the STPRM's account to fund Labastida's campaign.

Other former PEMEX officials under investigation are Carlos Juaresti Septien, Jose Domene Berlanga, and Julio Pindter Gonzalez. The government is also expected to investigate STPRM leaders Ricardo Aldana Prieto, Fernando Pacheco Martinez, and Manuel Limon Hernandez in connection with the alleged misuse of funds.

A STPRM spokesperson said Romero Deschamps and other officials would not have any comment on the matter unless authorities present a formal charge against the union.

The transfer of funds allegedly occurred in two separate transactions during 2000, with money laundered through financial institutions in Europe and Houston, Texas. Attorney General Rafael Macedo de la Concha said the Mexican government has requested the assistance of Interpol and the participating financial institutions to help reconstruct the fraudulent transactions.

The PGR said investigators are also looking into the possibility that PEMEX officials or STPRM representatives pocketed some of the funds intended for the PRI campaign.

If the charge against the PRI is proven, some observers said, the role of the STPRM would not be any different than it was during its most corrupt days under former leader Joaquin Hernandez Galicia, known as La Quina. The ex-STPRM leader openly acknowledged using the union to fund PRI campaigns.

Hernandez Galicia was arrested in 1989 on weapons and murder charges. But some said his arrest was not because of the STPRM corruption but because of his opposition to the free-market policies employed by then-President Carlos Salinas de Gortari.

"The union's operations are not any different than they were during the days of Joaquin Hernandez Galicia," the Agencia de Noticias Proceso (Apro) said in an analysis. "The secretary-general keeps a tight control on internal operations, which allows the STPRM to conceal information about its financial resources to rank-and-file members."

Despite the corruption allegations against the STPRM, the Instituto Federal Electoral (IFE) issued a report on its initial investigation absolving the union of any wrongdoing in the latest case.

The daily newspaper La Jornada said authorities are counting on the testimony of three former PRI financial officials, who have been placed under protective custody. …