Saturday 16 June 2018

The main issue in Hidalgo? Corruption, which bodes well for Morena

La politica es la politica has posted 32 articles - one for each state in Mexico, including Mexico City - in advance of the July 1, 2018, presidential election. For links to all 32 articles, scroll to the bottom of this post.

Hidalgo is a small state in central-east Mexico. With a population approaching three million, the state is dominated by the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which ruled Mexico for most of the 20th century and is also the party of President Enrique Peña Nieto. The governor is a member of the PRI, as are two of the three federal senators. The third is a member of the left-of-center Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD).

However, according to a telephone survey at the end of May, the two senatorial candidates for the left-of-center Morena party are leading their opponents by 17 points. This bodes well for presidential candidate and Morena leader Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), who is also leading in national polls.

The state has not been immune to election violence. On May 3, the mayor of Pacula, Alejandro González Ramos, was shot three times in Jiliapa. González Ramos was a member of the right-of-center National Action Party (PAN). During the six year tenure of Peña Nieto 30 sitting mayors have been killed in Mexico. If former mayors are included, the number rises to at least 75, according to the National Mayors Association.

But corruption is the big issue in Hidalgo during this election cycle. Civic groups claim that a massive electrification plant in Tizayuca that burns garbage was pushed forward with a lack of transparency, and with possible corruption on the part of the former PRI governor Francisco Olvera. The PAN has demanded an investigation into the environmental impact of the plant, specifically with regard to contamination of air and water, noting that there was significant local opposition.

More recently, the chancellor of the Francisco I. Madero Polytechnic University in Tepatepec in Hidalgo, a public university, was fired for allegedly embezzling more than 185 million pesos (about US $9 million). According to the Federal Auditor’s Office (ASF), in 2016 the university signed a contract with the Secretariat of Agrarian Development and Urban Planning (Sedatu) for services it didn’t provide. The ASF alleges that this was a money diversion scheme, though to date it is unaware of the money’s final destination.

Hidalgo’s Tulancingo Technological University is also facing embezzlement accusations. The head of Hidalgo Auditor’s Office, Arturo Roldán Pimentel, claims that the university received over 93.5 million pesos (US $4.9 million) from the State Workers’ Social Security Institute (ISSTE). As with Francisco I. Madero Polytechnic University, there is no evidence that Tulancingo Technological University provided any services to the federal agency. Chancellor Julio Márquez Rodríguez has since been suspended.

It is not uncommon for public entities in Mexico to be run as fiefdoms, with senior administrative jobs often going to the politically connected. The news that Hidalgo Auditor’s Office called out the corruption is likely due to the fact that large amounts of cash was being embezzled from federal agencies, as opposed to more traditional forms of corruption that involve skimming, nepotism, and padded expense accounts.

For example, in 2016 the government relieved the director of the Public Property Registry, Carlos Alberto Magaña Morales, claiming that his tenure was one of the most notable for to inefficiency and corruption." As is often the case, the Secretary of the Government of Hidalgo claimed that there would be an investigation, but nothing appears to have come of it. It looks like this was merely a changing of the guard, with the real crime being the extent of corruption, not the fact of it.

More recently, in January of this year Hidalgo’s undersecretary of Public Works, Marco Antonio Rico Moreno, was accused of conflict of interest. As is typical in Mexico, the whistleblower was detained in Mexico City for slandering Rico Moreno, though he has since been released. It is alleged that Rico Moreno had given more than 270 construction permits to his own companies, including on occasion altering land use regulations.

The business community in Hidalgo, perhaps not surprisingly, has expressed fear that a victory for left-leaning Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) would be bad for business. Lorena García Cázares, president of the Hidalgo chapter of the Mexican Association of Women Business leader (AMMJE), has said that with an AMLO win “We believe our economic capital is at risk,” and “There is uncertainty about what could occur in the national economy.” It should be noted that Hidalgo is a Mexican state with one of the highest emigration rates.

Crime is not as much of an issue in Hidalgo as in other states, and the press is relatively free, though in 2015 freelance photographer David Alonso Correa Rangel was killed. 

What does all this mean for the federal election? Hidalgo should be one state where the PRI candidate Antonio Meade could do well. Meade has seen a recent bump in the national polls, though he is still 20 points behind AMLO, and the polls in Hidalgo seem to reflect that. PAN candidate Ricardo Anaya will appeal to the middle class, but his alliance with the left-leaning Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), a cynical ploy on the part of both parties, may not serve him well. 

Below are the links to the posts for each state: 

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