Photo: Humberto Moreria
The chairman of Mexico’s main opposition Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, has resigned amid a debt scandal in the northern state of Coahuila, where he served as governor until early this year.
Humberto Moreira said in an extraordinary session of the PRI’s political council that he will not allow “a media war” to damage his party, which is now widely expected to reclaim the presidency in next year’s elections.
In announcing his resignation, the 45-year-old party chief referred to electoral victories by the PRI this year in different regions of the country and expressed his support for its lone presidential candidate, Enrique Peña Nieto, the telegenic former governor of Mexico state who is the early frontrunner in the July 1, 2012, balloting.
Peña Nieto, whom Moreira has described as “Mexico’s hope,” seemed to trigger the resignation when he said Thursday that the controversy over Coahuila’s debt had been wearing on the PRI.
The scandal, known in Mexico as the “Moreirazo,” erupted a few months ago when reports surfaced that Coahuila’s debt had risen from 323 million pesos ($23.2 million) in 2005 to 32 billion pesos ($2.46 billion) this August, an increase of 9,800 percent.
Authorities in that coal-producing state, governed by Moreira from 2005 until January 2011, had said in March that the state’s total debt amounted to just 7.9 billion pesos ($570 million).
Rating agency Standard & Poor’s has downgraded Coahuila’s debt five levels, noting that the state’s obligations were equal to 260 percent of total 2011 revenues.
The federal Attorney General’s Office, for its part, announced last month that it was investigating loans obtained by the state government, a probe spurred by a report from the federal finance ministry about “irregular” borrowing by the Coahuila administration.
According to the probe, the Coahuila government’s loan requests to banks included false declarations that the state’s legislature had given its approval for the borrowing.
Coahuila’s former treasurer, Javier Villarreal, is already facing charges of fraud and falsifying documents in connection with a total of 3 billion pesos ($222 million) in bank loans to the state.
The scandal heated up this week after it became public that Coahuila state had refused to grant a newspaper’s request for information on its public accounts in 2010 and said it plans to keep financial data from that year secret until 2019, or a year after Ruben Moreira - Humberto’s brother and the state’s newly inaugurated governor - is due to leave office.
Humberto Moreira left the governor’s office to take the reins of the PRI and was succeeded on an interim basis by Jorge Torres Lopez, who handed over power Thursday to Ruben Moreira.
The PRI’s secretary general, Cristina Diaz, will take over as chairwoman for the time being until the party organizes another political council to name Moreira’s successor.
Political analysts say the AG’s office is seeking to incriminate Humberto Moreira as a way of discrediting the PRI ahead of the 2012 general elections.
Mexico is currently governed by the conservative National Action Party, which ended 71 years of PRI rule with its victory in the 2000 presidential election