Tuesday, October 26

Rosario Robles withdraws her offer to plead guilty and decides to go to trial

Archive photograph of Rosario Robles, the former Secretary of State in prison for corruption.
Archive photograph of Rosario Robles, the former Secretary of State in prison for corruption.

The judicial process for corruption of former Secretary of State Rosario Robles is far from over. Despite the fact that the owner of two portfolios during the presidential term of former President Enrique Peña Nieto had offered to plead guilty, this Tuesday she submitted a brief temporarily withdrawing the offer. In this way, the defendant, who has been in prison for more than 18 months, closes the possibility of returning the 5,000 million pesos that the authorities demanded as a way to compensate part of the damage caused by the millionaire diversions of public money known as the Scam Teacher. Robles argues that she is being the victim of an obstruction to shorten her process, since “there is an intention to keep her in prison at all costs and under any circumstance.” Epigmenio Mendieta, one of her lawyers, has communicated through a document that the suspect is determined to go to trial for her involvement in the corruption scheme that involved the fraud of 7,760 million pesos (about 420 million dollars).

Negotiations between Robles and the Prosecutor’s Office have tightened again this Tuesday. The former secretary’s lawyers have withdrawn through a document the offer to plead guilty. “[Rosario Robles] he has expressed to me in a very precise way the suspension and therefore the annulment of the request made to this same authority on March 3, ”the letter reads.

The former secretary of Agrarian, Territorial and Urban Development of Mexico (Sedatu) and former head of Social Development has been in preventive prison since August 2019. In an attempt to shorten her process, she offered to plead guilty in exchange for a reduction in her sentence – which may come up to seven years. The agreement was rejected by the Attorney General’s Office (FGR). Robles gave his arm to twist and agreed to plead guilty to the crimes of improper exercise of public service and omission in exchange for receiving six years in prison. With this it would be freed from paying the reparation for the damage to the public coffers of more than 5,000 million pesos (about 250 million dollars).

Although the Public Ministry had until March 26 to consider whether to accept this agreement or not, Robles has decided to remove the letter from the table. The lawyers have justified this decision as a response to “the systematic way in which various authorities have obstructed any possibility of reaching an early termination of the process.” The document ensures that Robles herself has expressed that the “unjustified” attitude of the ministerial authorities has made her the victim of a process with “intent to keep her in prison at all costs and under any circumstances.” However, the accused argues that she is denied the possibility of negotiating and that her judicial process is based on personal quarrels or because of her status as a woman. “What it is about is seeking truth and justice and not a process based on revenge and political violence,” the document states.

Rosario Robles has insisted throughout the process that she has not received the same treatment as others involved in the network who have been questioned by the Prosecutor’s Office. When Emilio Zebadúa, who held the position of senior officer under the direction of Robles, decided to betray her and collaborate with the Prosecutor’s Office, he pointed out her as one of the orchestrators of the network. Zebadúa, who meticulously detailed how the network worked in Robles’ portfolios, has indefinite judicial protection and cannot be detained despite having been a direct collaborator of the former secretary in the diversion of money to pay for electoral campaigns.

The former secretary is one of the more than 50 officials involved in the Master Scam, a corruption case in which 7,760 million pesos (about 420 million dollars) were diverted to shell companies from 11 Mexican government agencies to eight public universities. However, Robles is the only heavyweight from Peña Nieto who is detained and in legal proceedings. The Public Ministry assures that the former official allowed her subordinates to perform while she was in charge of the Secretaries of Social Development, between 2012 and 2015, and that of Agrarian, Territorial and Urban Development, between 2015 and 2018.

With the negotiations to shorten his process completed, Robles’ defense has expressed its determination to go to trial to clarify the operation and its involvement in the corruption network. If convicted, Robles will face a sentence of up to seven years in addition to paying for the damage to the public coffers caused.

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