Mexico's Senate has finally approved a long debated anti-corruption law, but serious doubts remain over whether the reforms will make little more than a cosmetic difference to the country's graft-riddled institutions.
On April 21, Mexican lawmakers approved the constitutional reform to create a new National Anti-Corruption System, with 97 votes in favour, eight against and two abstentions, reported El Universal.
According to El Pais, the law includes a raft of reforms, including:
- Easier confiscation of assets and money from politicians convicted of illicit enrichment.
- New obligations for public officials to release information on their financial interests and assets (although these will not be made public)
- A framework for fines and sanctions against businesses that bribe officials.
- Strengthening the Federal Audit Office (ASF), which will now be able to carry out audits in real time, and will have greater powers to analyse and trace the use of public money.
- A new anti-corruption prosecutor specializing in public officials, who can investigate cases up to seven years after crimes have been committed.
InSight Crime Analysis
A series of recent scandals -- one of which included President Enrique Pena Nieto himself -- has pushed official corruption to the top of Mexico's political agenda, forcing the country's politicians to take action.
However, it is far from certain whether these reforms will make significant inroads in tackling corruption, not least because they first have to be approved by Mexico's state congresses -- many of which are heavily influenced by the corrupt political caudillos the reforms are meant to target.
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The reforms themselves have also been criticized for not going far enough -- include the failure to remove the constitutional clause that protects the president from being prosecuted for corruption.
While the reforms meant to create greater accountability over use of public funds are welcome, this is only one side of the story when it comes to corruption in Mexico. The other issue is official complicity with organized crime groups, rampant in much of Mexico, and there is little in the new law that explicitly addresses this.