Mexican president: Energy regulator has conflict of interest

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador speaks on Feb. 18, 2019, at his morning press conference inside the National Palace, in Mexico City, Mexico. EPA-EFE / Sashenka Gutierrez

MEXICO CITY.- President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on Monday accused the head of Mexico’s independent Energy Regulatory Commission (CRE) of having a conflict of interest and called on Guillermo Garcia Alcocer to resign.

«I have information that there is a conflict of interest in the case of the chairman of the so-called CRE, it does exist and he should not be there,» the president said at his daily morning press conference.

Garcia Alcocer acknowledged last week that two of his in-laws work for companies in the energy sector, but denied that their firms have received favorable treatment from the CRE.

The chairman’s brother-in-law, Mario Barreiro Castellanos, works for Vestas, a Danish manufacturer of wind-power technology that does not operate under the supervision of the CRE.

Santiago Garcia Castellanos, a cousin of Garcia Alcocer’s wife, is with Santa Fe Gas Natural, which received its operating permit from the CRE prior to when the current chairman joined the commission in 2016.

«I have recused myself from reviewing and voting on matters relating to this firm (Santa Fe) in conformity with the law,» Garcia Alcocer told reporters last Friday.

Beyond criticizing Garcia Alcocer, Lopez Obrador said that the CRE as an institution «deceived the Mexican public because they made people believe that autonomous authorities of independent experts were needed because the government could not deal with those issues.»

The president suggested that the CRE and similar bodies were not truly independent.

«In the majority of cases,» he said, they are subordinate to the privatization policy way of thinking.»

The leader of the leftist Morena party vowed that his administration would «purify these authorities that were entirely at the service of private interests.»

Lopez Obrador likewise reaffirmed his charge that previous pro-business administrations in Mexico sought to dismantle state-owned oil giant Pemex and public electricity utility CFE.

«Neoliberal technocrats, with the hallmark of corruption, took great pains to twist the neck of the goose that lays the golden eggs,» he said.

A week ago, Lopez Obrador was joined at his news conference by the director of CFE, Manuel Bartlett, who offered a list of former senior officials, including a president and two erstwhile energy secretaries, who joined energy companies after leaving the government.

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