How Not to Fight Corruption, Mexico Edition

Ernesto Villanueva has a great post up about the uselessness of Mexico’s new anti-corruption scheme currently being debated in the Mexican Senate.  He also has a hilarious (but sadly, accurate) description of the background to this constitutional amendment:

It was precisely a corruption scandal involving the president, his wife and his treasury secretary, Luis Videgaray, that led high-level figures to prioritize anti-corruption legislation in the first place. President Peña appointed Virgilio Andrade — a close friend of Secretary Videgaray from their university days — to investigate a conflict of interest case involving Peña, his wife and Secretary Videgaray. To be clear: Andrade was asked to investigate a conflict of interest case involving a party with whom he had a conflict of interest. The result was predictable.

And here are some reasons he is skeptical about the new amendment:

a. It would “leave the president untouched and outside the scope of the anti-corruption regime except in two cases: a) treason against the nation and b) serious criminal offenses. Since treason is almost impossible to prove in Mexico, and all serious criminal offenses specified in the bill have disappeared from the Criminal Code.”

b.  “In order to protect legislators´ freedom of speech and avoid persecution due to statements made in Congress, legislators were given “fuero,” or immunity, in 1917. The fuero has been distorted and is now used to guarantee impunity for politicians. Aside from the need to eliminate the immunity provided by the fuero, the anti-corruption reforms do nothing to address its misuse, and it remains intact.”

c.  This one might be my personal favorite: “a mandatory declaration of financial assets is not made public unless the public servant agrees to it.”  And it gets even better:  “Although the declaration is made under oath, the financial information is not checked to confirm its accuracy.”  Because no public servant would ever lie under oath!

d. To wit, the amendment would call for a huge new bureaucracy that has little power (it can only “recommend prosecution but cannot actually prosecute”) but will almost certainly increase corruption by incentivizing “the partisan distribution of government jobs.”

Villanueva sums it up perfectly when he says that the reform gives “an impression of change, but not change that is in any way real.”  That pretty much sums up a lot of reform in Mexico.

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