Mexico City — For the second time in a week, Mexico's president has criticized an ethane gas supply deal between Brazilian-Mexican petrochemical joint venture Braskem Idesa SAPI and state oil company Petróleos Mexicanos.
Andrés Manuel López Obrador said the transaction, completed in 2010, was a prime example of the rampant and unprecedented corruption prevalent in Mexico over the four decades before he took office in December 2018.
It had cost Mexico at least 15 billion pesos ($682.5 million), not only in price subsidies awarded to Braskem Idesa but in fines paid by Pemex for failing to fulfill its contractual obligations, he said in a 30-minute address broadcast on YouTube on Aug. 22.
"We will recover what we can," he said, adding that Mexico stopped paying the fines when he became president.
López Obrador first denounced the Braskem Idesa-Pemex feedstock deal at an Aug. 17 news conference. Pemex is obliged to supply Braskem Idesa with 66,000 barrels of ethane gas a day for 20 years for use at the latter's Ethylene XXI petrochemical complex in the state of Veracruz.
López Obrador is basing his accusations on a 62-page statement made to government prosecutors by former Pemex Director General Emilio Lozoya Austin. Lozoya is facing fraud, bribery and corruption charges in Mexico after being arrested in Spain in July and extradited to Mexico.
According to prosecutors, the alleged crimes were committed while Lozoya was head of Pemex during the government of Enrique Peña Nieto, López Obrador's predecessor. The prosecutors claim they involve Braskem's holding company Odebrecht SA.
Peña Nieto, his former Finance Minister and Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray Caso and former presidents Carlos Salinas Gortari and Felipe Calderón Hinojosa are among 17 or 18 senior politicians, past and present, whom Lozoya has implicated in cases of corruption.
Calderón, whose government oversaw and approved the Braskem deal, has vehemently denied any wrongdoing. Peña Nieto and Salinas de Gortari had not responded in public to Lozoya's claims by early Aug. 23.
Opposition politicians and commentators claim that Lozoya's declarations are still under consideration by the court and should not have been discussed publicly, and that López Obrador has acted illegally by referring to them in public statements.
There was no immediate response from Braskem Idesa to López Obrador's latest claim, but the company has previously denied doing anything wrong.