Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Today's Mexico City Headlines: Lawmakers have finally voted to crack down on corruption, approving legislation that provides for heavier legal artillery against perpetrators of shady practices. They don't include themselves as targets, of course. Or the president either. But, hey, you gotta start somewhere.

What was once hoped to be major anti-corruption legislation was approved yesterday, after senators spent 12 hours complaining that it won’t do much good.
    The law will create a National Anti-Corruption System to coordinate efforts among all branches of government. It will have the power to investigate not just public servants but also private companies, even shutting them down.
    The ASF, the public funds watchdog agency, gets beefed-up powers, and an anti-corruption czar will be named (by the president, subject to Senate confirmation).
    What the law doesn’t do is remove elected officials’ immunity from prosecution, known as the fuero. So the senators, and earlier the lower house deputies, protected themselves from any legal consequences resulting from the corrupt behavior they were railing against all day.
    This blatantly self-serving omission earned the wrath of some of the stronger anti-corruption voices in the Senate.  “Politics will continue to be a place of impunity, thanks to the fuero,” said PAN Senator Roberto Gil. Not enough senators saw things his way. Elimination of the fuero didn’t make it into the bill.
    Most of the indignation was aimed at the special privilege afforded the president, who doesn’t even need the fuero. He’s constitutionally protected against any accusation, save for treason.
    The new law doesn’t touch the executive immunity, an especially sore point with the opposition PAN on the right and PRD on the left. The subject is especially tense these days after President Peña Nieto and members of his administration have come under suspicion for cozy real estate deals with government contractors.
    PAN Senator Javier Corral led the pack in the rhetorical flourish category: “It is incomprehensible, unacceptable and therefore deplorable that this Congress doesn’t dare to take the step of establishing a means of direct and objective accountability for the head of all public servants, the president of the republic.”
    Javier Lozano, another PAN senator, wins the let’s-get-real award: “The worse thing about all this is that no matter how many obstacles we create, there's still going to be corruption. Just because they’re thieves doesn’t mean they’re stupid.”
    All the papers front the passage. The two that lead with it play up the ambivalence. Reforma: “Anti-corruption law rated as limited.” Milenio: “Anti-corruption reform passes; immunity remains.”
    Like most major reforms, this one is in the form of amendments to the constitution, so a majority of state legislatures still have to approve it.

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