In a previous anticorruption update, I addressed the stalled reform involving the National Anticorruption Commission, and how the creation of a Special Prosecutor for Corruption Crimes further hindered the Commission’s creation. It seems things have gotten worse for the hypothetical Commission since that time.
Special Prosecutor… [insert name here]
Late last month, the Senate initiated debate on naming the head of the Special Prosecutor, which until now has remained vacant. The person initiating the process was Pablo Escudero Morales of the Green Party (PVEM), who also is President of the Anticorruption Commission in the Senate (unlike in the U.S., the Mexican Green Party is Center-Right and is generally allied with the PRI).
About a week later, local media outlets reported that the PRI fraction in the Chamber of Deputies was planning to avoid approving the new Anticorruption Commission, considering it duplicative of the Special Prosecutor. A PAN representative was quoted as saying that his fraction would propose transforming the commission into a Federal Tribunal with Administrative Responsibility.
Pena Administration Opposes Commission?
About the same time, Minister of Finance Luis Videgaray visited the Senate, which is supposed to consider the legislation creating the Anticorruption Commission (approved by the Senate late last year. According to Senator Arely Gomez, secretary of the Anticorruption Commission in the Senate, Videgaray indicated that, in the Pena administration’s view, there is no need to create the Anticorruption Commission, as this role could be adequately performed by the Special Prosecutor. Importantly, Videgaray was head of Pena’s campaign and is in charge of all economic reforms under the Pacto por Mexico – i.e., he is a credible source as to the President’s thinking. Essentially, Videgaray (via Gomez) explained that the creation of the Special Prosecutor, plus the transformation of the Attorney General office into an autonomous entity, means that Pena has already fulfilled his promise to create a specialized anticorruption body.
About one week after Videgaray’s statements, on September 8, Pres. Pena addressed the group – Los 300 – at their annual dinner. In his speech, Pena elaborated on the need for a new ethical culture in Mexico, as a starting point for reducing corruption in society. He added that this push should start from the top down, with the creation of new institutions designed to combat acts of corruption. Pena then referred to the new ‘tools’ available for anticorruption measures, starting with the Special Prosecutor and the Institute for Transparency. Pena continued by noting that the political parties are currently discussing the Commission. Other than that sole mention, Pena was did give any indication as to whether or not his administration still saw the Commission as an essential element of the reforms. Here is his speech (the discussion of the anticorruption reforms starts at 37:00):
PRI-PAN-PRD Fight in Chamber of Deputies
Finally, last week Deputy Arely Madrid, President of the Anticorruption Commission in the Chamber of Deputies, declared that the proposal to create the Commission is “imprecise, insufficient, lacks teeth, and cannot be approved just to give speeches and create a new office.” Other legislators were quoted agreeing with Ms. Madrid. PRI Deputy Reyes Gamiz stated that he thought Pres. Pena left this reform for the end because it is difficult to agree among the three parties. Indeed – the next day members of the PAN and PRD fractions in the Chamber of Deputies publicly stated that they consider the Commission to be essential and demanded that the PRI move the debate forward.
The trouble with the Commission has everything to do with the precarious route by which majorities are obtained in the Mexican Congress. As this helpful infographic illustrates, either the PAN or PRD, plus some of the minor parties, are able to block any constitutional reform (which requires 66.66% of the votes). Thus, passing the bill sent down by the Senate would require agreement from significant portions of either the PAN or PRD.
My guess is that Videgaray’s statements are consistent with Pena’s thinking. He’s too close to the president to go off his leash in such a way, and Pena’s statements at the 300 dinner were far from a full-throated defense of the Commission. It will be interesting to see how this plays out, especially if the Special Prosecutor is named and gets up and running before the Commission debate is resolved.