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Wednesday, 6 March 2013

From Michoacán to Tabasco, the Mexican people want their money back

Time to pay it back (source: Counter Corruption Network)
There is often a sameness to reports of corruption in Mexico. We hear about the obscene amounts of money stolen from the people, and sometime about the the public officials who get caught. But now there’s a welcome twist: the people want their money back.

In the case of Mexico’s most recent scandal, in which the former head of the national teachers union, Elba Esther Gordillo, 68, was arrested for allegedly pocketing up to two billion Mexican pesos, or about $156 million, the union boss in the Mexican state of Michoacán, Juan José Ortega Madrigal, would like to see where two decades worth of fees for 75,000 teachers went.

And to get their money back the teachers in Michoacán are pursuing a lawsuit directly against Elba Esther Gordillo, the woman who headed their union for 23 years before her arrest on February 26 after arriving at Toluca, west of Mexico City, in her private jet.

“We are organizing at minimum to get our dues, either to be where they should have gone or, if possible, back into the hands of the workers,” Ortega Madrigal said in an interview.

Ortega Madrigal further stated that the arrest of Elba Esther Gordillo did not resolve problems between the teachers in Michoacán and the national leadership of the union, specifically the new leader Juan Díaz de la Torre, an ally of Gordillo’s.

“The detention of Elba Esther Gordillo does nothing to resolve our relationship with the national leadership,” said Ortega Madrigal.  “Naming Juan Díaz de la Torre as secretary general is an imposition, and highly questionable.”

As a result, the Michoacán teachers are also pursuing legal action against Juan Díaz de la Torre, because they don’t want to be sending dues to what they fear will be another corrupt official.

And Tabasco, too

The state of Tabasco has a debt of more than 17 billion pesos ($1.33 billion), a deficit of 6 billion pesos ($470 million), and can’t seem to locate another 900 million pesos ($70 million).

This problem, for some, has been complicated by the fact that Mariana Granier Calles, daughter of Tabasco’s former PRI governor Andrés Granier Melo, was recently alleged to have almost 3 billion pesos ($234 million) in her bank account – half the annual budget deficit for the entire state.

This is perhaps why Tabasco’s new governor, Arturo Núñez from the left-leaning PRD, is directly asking the former governor to cough up the missing pesos, going so far as to say that this isn’t an accounting error but is a result of a “deliberate, pre-meditated program”.

With respect to the alleged accounts held by Granier’s daughter, Núñez said that he can’t act because there is no official confirmation of either the accounts or the amounts.

To get to the bottom at least to the problem of the mission 900 million pesos, Núñez is hoping to force Granier to testify publicly.

“There is no way he wouldn’t have noticed, or didn’t know,” said Núñez. “The resources were to go to health and public education.”

The former governor left Tabasco on December 30, and was last reported to be in Miami, Florida, where his son has properties. However, at present his whereabouts are unknown.

(TE Wilson is the author of Mezcalero, a Detective Sánchez novel.)

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Twitter: @TimothyEWilson
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