It is presumed there could have been illegal payouts to lawmakers when support was being lobbyied for Mexico’s energy reform during the Peña Nieto government. Unfortunately, that is how politics has always worked in Mexico. Peddling influence was everyday fare for Emilio Lozoya in his three-year tenure as CEO of state-run oil firm Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex). Bribes, even just for getting a meeting with him, were the hallmark of his term in office.
It is, however, a very different thing to state, as President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) has done, that the energy reform was a big fraud and that it “failed” because it did not stop corruption. In fact, the energy reform had noble intentions. Far from hurting the nation, it captivated the interest of investors in five continents, who participated in completely transparent, corruption-free oil bidding rounds and electricity auctions, hoping to be part of a better future for Mexico. Sadly, implementation of these bidding processes has now been halted by López Obrador for unreasonable ideological reasons.
Lozoya did not get much involved in implementing Mexico’s energy reform. On the contrary, he used the reform as a decoy to promote his own immoral agenda from his office on the 45th floor of the Pemex Tower.
Corruption allegations related to Agronitrogenados, Odebrecht, Oceanografía, Hijos de J. Barreras shipyard and other alleged scams –some of which may even have been endorsed by former President Enrique Peña Nieto– had nothing at all to do with the spirit of a reform which placed Mexico on an advanced level of regulation, open markets and competitiveness.
One might suppose that, as a result of his misdemeanors, Lozoya would have to spend a long term in prison. But –and maybe this is hardly a surprise– it seems that once again Mexico will not be favored with impartial justice, such as is common in more advanced democracies and is a pillar of their political and social harmony. On the contrary, it has been agreed that Lozoya will be a “collaborative witness”, which provides protection for him and his family in exchange for his providing evidence against public officals and lawmakers of the 2012-2018 government term.
There is now a new plot underway in which Lozoya will end up supporting the López Obrador government in its political and electoral strategy. He will benefit from application of Article 256 of the National Penal Code, which allows the attorney’s office to abstain from taking penal action against him based on a “criteria of opportunity” which is applicable “when the accused party provides essential and useful information for prevention of a more serious misdemeanor than the one he is accused of”.
It is therefore being established that Lozoya was simply a pawn in the midst of much more serious misdeeds, which presumably might lead to bringing charges against Peña Nieto, former Finance minister Luis Videgaray and other former top officials. However, Article 256 also states that the criteria of opportunity does not apply to “federal crimes and those that gravely harm the public interest”.
Is it really true that Lozoya had a minor role in everything? Did his actions as CEO of Pemex not harm the public interest? The crimes of which he has been accused caused major losses to Mexico’s public finances. Moreover, during his term at the company, Pemex’s debt shot up as never before –by over US $30 billion–, contributing decisively to the critical situation of insolvency and technical bankruptcy at the company. This, in addition to poor management currently by the López Obrador administration, has Mexico just one step away from losing its investment grade. S&P and Moody’s rating agencies have already sent out a warning. All of this is gravely damaging to the country.
President López Obrador also causes damage and regression to the nation by discrediting energy reform and scaring away investors. He hopes to make gains in upcoming elections from the misfortune of the former Pemex CEO. It remains to be seen whether there will be justice, simulation or iniquity. Mexico urgently requires true moral renewal in politics and in society at large. López Obrador has promised this, but has not yet delivered.
* David Shields is an energy industry analyst. His e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org A Spanish version of this Op-Ed appeared first in Reforma’s newspaper print edition.