Luis Videgaray, a former cabinet minister who served in the government of ex-president Enrique Peña Nieto, has rejected accusations made against him by former Pemex CEO Emilio Lozoya.
His denial Thursday came after the leaking this week of a document submitted to the federal Attorney General’s Office (FGR) in which Lozoya accuses the former finance and foreign affairs minister of leading a bribery scheme that paid off National Action Party (PAN) lawmakers for their support of the previous government’s structural reforms.
In a statement posted to Twitter, Videgaray described the accusations against him as “false, absurd, inconsistent and reckless.”
“Lozoya’s accusations are invented lies to try to get out of the consequences of his own actions,” he wrote.
“The only person responsible for the serious legal situation that he, his mother, his sister and his wife face is Emilio Lozoya.”
The former state oil chief, extradited from Spain last month, is awaiting trial on corruption charges related to bribes paid by the Brazilian company Odebrecht in exchange for lucrative contracts and Pemex’s 2015 purchase of a run-down fertilizer plant at an allegedly inflated price.
Lozoya has agreed to cooperate with authorities in the hope that he will receive a more lenient sentence if convicted and has been afforded protected witness status by federal authorities.
Videgaray, now a lecturer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said it was unsurprising that he is now blaming others to try to protect himself.
“It’s an attitude that’s fitting for his personality,” he wrote, adding that it’s also unsurprising that he is one of Lozoya’s targets.
“It’s widely known that we had a bad personal relationship due to his poor financial management of Pemex, what he sought to do with the energy reform and his conduct as a public servant,” Videgaray said.
“I’m always ready to respond to the call of the relevant authorities and contribute in that way to the clarification of the truth. … I will not allow myself to be defamed out of political revenge. For that reason, I will have to resolve these issues and I will defend my honor through the relevant legal authorities.”
José Antonio Meade, another former cabinet minister accused of corruption by Lozoya, responded to the claim against him – that he received a 4-million-peso kickback – on Twitter.
“I dedicated my public life to building a better country, always with absolute honor and legality,” he wrote.
The former minister, who served in a range of portfolios in the previous two governments and was the Institutional Revolutionary Party candidate in the 2018 presidential election, also said that the opportunity Lozoya has been given to cooperate with authorities should be aimed at establishing the truth, not giving the former Pemex chief the chance to “accuse without proof those of us who denounce illicit acts.”
Meade added that he will be respectful of the investigations and that he has notified authorities of his whereabouts.
José Antonio González Anaya, who succeeded Lozoya as Pemex chief before becoming finance minister, also rejected corruption accusations leveled at him.
Former president Felipe Calderón has defended himself against Lozoya’s accusations but two other ex-presidents cited, Enrique Peña Nieto and Carlos Salinas, have remained silent.
The corruption scandal has kept the coronavirus crisis off the front pages of newspapers in recent days and given President López Obrador new fodder for one of his favorite pastimes – attacking past presidents and “their corrupt, neoliberal” governments.
Senator Julen Rementería del Puerto, the PAN’s deputy leader in the upper house, charged Thursday that the ruling Morena party is using Lozoya as a “battering ram” against its conservative opponent with the aim of damaging it electorally before the 2021 midterm elections.
“Lozoya [is] a battering ram of the government to hit who? The PAN, clearly,” he told a virtual press conference.
“He has shown a perverse intention of a political nature to hurt the main adversary of the [party] which poorly governs our country today.”
The head of the anti-corruption commission at the business lobby Coparmex said much the same. “This trial is being played out in the media,” said Max Kaiser. “It appears to be designed to be able to talk about [the president’s] political enemies.”
The head of México Evalúa, a think tank, said López Obrador was using the case to distract from the worst recession in Mexico’s history and the world’s third-highest death toll.
“The moment López Obrador used this in his morning rant, it turned into a political issue,” Luis Rubio said. “He will not advance the cause of justice, he will only prosecute his enemies — it’s the traditional Mexican game of playing politics with the law.”