Corrupt State Auditors Behind Massive Embezzlement in Mexico, Analysts Say

Mark Browne | April 26, 2017 | 1:34am EDT
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Former Veracruz state governor Javier Duarte de Ochoa is accused of embezzling more than two billion dollars. (Photo: CorsicaRT/Wikipedia)

Mexico City ( – Corrupt state auditors and a federal government unwilling to tackle widespread corruption paved the way for the alleged embezzlement of more than $13 billion by former and current governors in Mexico, academic and civic researchers say.

“These governors didn’t act alone,” said Fernanda Gomez-Adan, a senior policy analyst with the civic group Mexicans Against Corruption and Impunity.

“For the amount of money they embezzled, it’s clear they had other public workers working with them. They had a network of public servants involved in this corruption.”

State auditors are appointed by local legislatures which are often controlled by the same political party as the governors, she said.

“They are supposed to have independent auditors. However, the local auditors are almost always from the same political party as the governor.”

The Catholic Archdiocese of Mexico said at the weekend politicians in Mexico have elevated corruption to an “art form.”

It called the government’s response to corruption “grotesque,” and said the “seed” of corruption is “impunity.”

At least 22 current or former governors, all members of President Enrique Peña Nieto’s ruling PRI party, have been accused of embezzling approximately $13.7 billion since Peña Nieto took office in 2012, based upon criminal complaints and federal audits, according to the media outlet Sin Embargo. Five have either been arrested or are subject to arrest orders.

Former Veracruz governor Javier Duarte de Ochoa stands accused by federal auditors of stealing $2.3 billion, the newspaper La Jornada reported Tuesday.

After resigning his office, Duarte disappeared last October, two days before a federal warrant was issued for his arrest. He was arrested earlier this month in Guatemala.

In a recent editorial, La Jornada said both the Peña Nieto administration and its predecessor under President Felipe Calderón had been either unwilling or unable to deal with the corruption during Duarte’s 2010-2016 tenure.

Gomez-Adan said Duarte’s arrest was “a good step towards justice and restitution, but it’s not enough.”

The “true amount” embezzled by current or former governors could not be known, she added. “Not all the public spending at the local office is covered by federal auditors because they don’t have to power to audit all accounts.”

“There is no oversight,” said John M. Ackerman, a researcher and professor at Mexico’s national university in Mexico City. “There is no transparency.”

Ackerman said the alleged amount in missing funds was a “very conservative” estimate.

He compared the accused governors to “local feudal lords who basically feel completely protected. They have been robbing right and left.”

“There is this whole network of complicity which has been built for decades. There is no oversight. There is no transparency.”

Ackerman said state auditors “are not doing their jobs” and public anger has reached a “boiling point,” reflecting a “serious political crisis.”

Duarte was dogged by published allegations of corruption for months, including a report by the national news portal Animal Politico last May to the effect state coffers were robbed by Duarte’s functionaries who allegedly awarded state purchases to sham companies.

Animal Politico director Daniel Moreno in an interview this week noted that federal authorities failed to move against the governor during his time in office.

Sergio Aguayo, a professor of political science at The College of Mexico, wrote in a recent column that Duarte’s arrest was at least a sign federal auditors are doing their jobs.

He said the independence and professionalism of the Superior Auditor of the Federation needs to be protected, as it is “one of the institutions that has done a good job.”

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