Sunday, December 5

Ricardo Anaya: The ‘Odebrecht case’ is charged against the opposition leader in Mexico and opens a new stage on the right


Ricardo Anaya during a rally of his electoral campaign in Querétaro, Mexico.
Ricardo Anaya during a rally of his electoral campaign in Querétaro, Mexico.Manuel Velasquez / Getty Images

In Mexico there is no leader of the opposition. The PAN spokesperson in the Chambers is different from the presidential candidate, he does not challenge the president in parliament, and he does not lead the party either. It is a model copied from the American one that places the opposition leader on the fringes of the day-to-day spotlight with the need to find a place in the middle of the daily political ‘grid’. That role as leader of the opposition, however, has so far been played by Ricardo Anaya, considered the man best positioned to fight for the presidency in the 2024 elections. His strategy was to multiply his presence on social media and embark on a long tour for the country that has come face to face with justice and in the morning.

The Prosecutor’s Office accuses him of receiving almost seven million pesos in bribes from the construction company Odebrecht to approve the energy reform in 2014 promoted by Peña Nieto. From there, he announced his exile from the country until he finally appeared via Zoom before a judge this Thursday. But regardless of the legal repercussions, the seriousness of the accusation – crimes that involve up to 30 years in prison – the number of defendants – at least 70 in the sights of the Financial Intelligence Unit – and the minutes that President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has dedicated in the last ‘mornings’ they make the Anaya case a missile in the political life of the country, mainly among the opposition to see how the candidate of the right that obtained 12 million votes in the last elections flirts with the possibility of converting on the run from justice if the process against him continues.

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The change of opinion when appearing before the judge this Thursday confirms his erratic speech and the weakness of a political opposition that has not raised its head since the defeat of 2018 and that does not have names of weight capable of replacing him. Despite the lukewarm support received from Vicente Fox and his arch enemies Felipe Calderón and Margarita Zavala who have emphasized the use of institutions by the current president, other prominent voices from the right have raised their eyebrows at the exile maneuver.

His own party, the PAN, has taken almost a week to show its support for its candidate. This Thursday, the Permanent Commission of the conservative party founded in 1939 denounced the climate of political polarization and the “abuse of power” from the presidency. “Any accusation against Anaya is an accusation for the PAN and for freethinking Mexicans who fight for democracy and the right to dissent,” he said in a statement. At the same time, the judicial onslaught accompanied by presidential applause, marks the country’s political time and the second stage of the López Obrador government, who maintains acceptable levels of popularity and rubs his hands as he sees how the corrupting presence of Odebrecht in Mexico decapitates any attempt to opposition, both from the PAN or the PRI, to the emergence of corruption scandals.

According to the PAN member Marco Adame, former governor of Morelos, deputy and member of the party’s commission, “Ricardo Anaya is a victim of the political persecution of López Obrador for having challenged him. Judicial institutions are being used as a political weapon to eliminate competitors. The attention is unusual to deactivate and derail any opponent with the possibility of facing it, “he said in an interview with EL PAÍS. Regarding the situation in which the party would be in the event that Anaya was imprisoned or decided to leave the country, Adame admits that the Queretaro “is one of those who has expressed his possibility of being a candidate”, implying that there is a change. On the role of the conservative opposition during these three years of the López Obrador government, Adame acknowledges that the role of the PAN has been “erratic and unfocused.” “We have not recovered from 2018 and the PAN has been in a process of reflection to be a democratic alternative, we have had triumphs and defeats, we will have to continue fighting,” he said.

The deputy Jorge Arturo Espadas Galván is one of those who sees Anaya as the winner in a lawsuit with López Obrador that has given Anaya a category that until now she did not have. “This attack is making us stronger and uniting us.” This is a blatant persecution against political rivals, but we are more cohesive than we were a week ago. “We are already taking this unit to parliament,” he told this newspaper. Regarding who could lead the party in 2024, Espadas pointed out that “Anaya is one of the leaderships, but this crisis is neither going to kill Anaya nor is it going to kill the PAN” and cited some of the names that could replace him on the presidential ballot like Diego Sinhue, Maru Campos or Governor Francisco Domínguez, until now characters unknown to the electorate.

According to a survey by the pollster Arias Consultores on the preferred names for the 2024 elections, which López Obrador will not run for, within the PAN, Ricardo Anaya, is leading the trends. The 43-year-old former presidential candidate has 14.3%, ahead of Senator Lily Téllez, with 6.5% of the preferences among the general voter. Among PAN sympathizers, Anaya’s image is close to 47%.

However, the irruption of Odebrecht and the confessions before the Prosecutor’s Office of its man in Mexico, Emilio Lozoya, have broken the balance and so far there are 70 designated people and deputies of all colors who could be called to testify at any time, among them the former president Enrique Peña Nieto and his right hand Luis Videgaray.

For the coordinator of the Parliamentary Group of the National Action Party (PAN) in Congress, Juan Carlos Romero Hicks, the attack against Anaya is a flagrant violation of due process “in which López Obrador acts as public prosecutor, judge and president” and criticized the lack of autonomy of the Prosecutor’s Office “we are under a sick regime that weakens the institutions.” Hicks, however, refused to give his opinion on Anaya’s decision to announce her exile “and less to be published,” he clarified to this newspaper.

Along the same lines, the PAN Raul Tortolero, president of the Latin American conservative Christian Movement and a member of the PAN, agrees that the attacks on Anaya have united the right and the president “seems his press chief” because he is allowing him to be positioned as the leader of the opposition and publicize the persecution to political opponents around the world. “Exile is an option and a perfectly understandable Human right in this case,” he defended. Regarding the role of the party of which he is a part, he said “it has had problems to be competitive and Morena has gained ground. Few states will be left in the hands of the opposition next year. And we do not see pictures in a position to win one of them. Anaya was one of them and that is why they wanted to clear the way ”.

Martín Arango García, secretary general of the PAN also insisted on the absolute support for Ricardo Anaya and a total repudiation of the president. His statements sounded like a new stage in which the opposition wants to be the opposition again.

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