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  • Pemex, the country's oil company

    Pemex, the country's oil company | Photo: Flickr

Published 5 July 2019

The arrest is Mexico's firest in relation to the Odebrecht, the construction company linked to widespread corruption scandal that continues to unfold across Latin America.

The former director of Mexico's state oil company, Petroleos Mexicanos (PEMEX) has been was arrested Friday on corruption and bribery charges.

Emilio Lozoya ran the highly-indebted PEMEX during the previous neoliberal administration of Enrique Peña Nieto (2012-2018), a period already marked by rampant corruption and a unprecedented murder rates. The arrest of Lozoya is Mexico's first in relation to the sprawling Odebrecht kickbacks case that is already well underway in nearly all Latin American countries.

The whereabouts of the defendant, however, are unknown and the court has asked Interpol to issue a red alert for his arrest. 

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Loyaza stands accused of receiving millions in personal bribes from the disgraced Brazilian company Odebrecht that last month negotiated a deal with Brazilian authorities to bring itself back from the brink of bancruptcy. It is thought that the PEMEX leader received bribes in exchange for changes to state contracts relating to a refinery in the northern state of Hidalgo.

Prosecutors are also investigating a large purchase of fertilizer made by Loyaza the state officials consider to be overpriced by around a half a million dollars. Such a deal is a common corruption practice whereby a state official uses public money to overpay for a product to a private company that then passese on parts of the project profits the government authority figure.

In addition to the former PEMEX official, the judge in the case also ordered the arrest of his mother, sister and wife, accusing the three women of splitting much of the money that Lozoya received in bribes.

Another serious aspect of the investigation is that these allegations were known about back in 2017, but files were buried by the Peña Nieto administration. Leftist president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) campaigned on an anti-corruption platform and said during his December 2018 inauguration that corruption in Mexico was synonimous with neoliberalism.

He has also referenced corruption within PEMEX, saying; "Neoliberalism is synonymous, in the case of Mexico with corruption, robbery. Both Pemex and the Federal Electricity Commission, which were the most looted companies, not only in Mexico, I would say of the world in the neoliberal period."

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