Mexican Governor Denies Corruption as President Looks on

Aug 19, 2020
1:45 PM

In this April 3, 2020 file photo, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador waves to supporters in Mexico City. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell, File)

By CARLOS RODRÍGUEZ, Associated Press

MEXICO CITY (AP) — An opposition-party Mexican governor suddenly engulfed in a national scandal defended his integrity Wednesday alongside President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who has played a part in embarrassing him.

Just a day earlier, López Obrador had displayed to reporters a widely circulated video of unknown provenance showing two men stuffing stacks of cash into a duffel bag. One of those men was a longtime close aide to Querétaro Gov. Francisco Domínguez, an outspoken critic of the president, who López Obrador visited Wednesday.

Domínguez quickly fired the aide and insisted he knew nothing about any misdeeds.

“I don’t have anything to fear, nothing to be ashamed of and nothing to hide,” Domínguez said, while defending his support for an energy reform that is the focus of a probe into bribery. López Obrador had fiercely opposed the reform.

In his earlier role as a senator, “I presented the [reform] personally in the name of my party,” Domínguez said. “I’ve always been convinced the reform was beneficial for the country…. There was no need to give me money for my vote which was already given out of personal conviction.”

While it is unclear who shot the video, or when, the president has connected it to a formal legal complaint filed by Emilio Lozoya, the former head of Mexico’s state-run oil company. Attorney General Alejandro Gertz Manero said last week that Lozoya alleges former President Enrique Peña Nieto and his finance secretary Luis Videgaray directed him to bribe lawmakers —including five senators— to support the controversial energy and other structural reforms. Gertz did not name the lawmakers.

At that time of the alleged bribes Domínguez was a senator from the central state of Querétaro for the conservative National Action Party.

He said earlier this week that he had no knowledge of what his aide was doing in the video.

After months on the run, Lozoya was arrested in Spain in February and extradited to Mexico in July after agreeing to cooperate with investigators. He faces corruption charges related to Pemex’s overvalued purchase of a fertilizer plant and to millions in dollars of bribes from Brazilian construction firm Odebrecht.

And his apparent cooperation is already shaking the highest levels of Mexican politics—particularly among López Obrador’s rivals.

In addition to the alleged bribes for lawmakers, Lozoya has told prosecutors that Peña Nieto and Videgaray told him to use $4 million from Odebrecht to pay foreign campaign consultants for work on Peña Nieto’s 2012 election campaign. That campaign put his Institutional Revolutionary Party back in power after 12 years in the opposition.

Peña Nieto, who is reported to live abroad, and Videgaray have not spoken publicly since the allegations emerged last week. Neither Videgaray nor his assistant at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have responded to emails seeking comment and Peña Nieto’s former chief of staff also did not respond.

On Wednesday, López Obrador, who has made fighting corruption the centerpiece of his administration, demurred when asked to comment on the allegations in front of Domínguez.

“Why don’t we leave it for another time,” the president said.