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Mexico: Arrest Warrant Issued For Former Director of Pemex - 2002-05-09

A Mexican federal judge has issued an arrest warrant for a former director of the state-owned oil company, Petroleos Mexicanos, known as Pemex, in connection with a case involving illegal campaign finance. At the same time, a separate investigation is under way into alleged irregularities in the 2000 campaign of President Vicente Fox.

A Mexican federal judge on Wednesday issued an arrest warrant for former Pemex chief Rogelio Montemayor for his alleged role in diverting over one billion pesos or more than $100 million (U.S.) from the company to the presidential campaign of Francisco Labastida. Mr. Labastida was the candidate of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI in the year 2000 election.

The court also issued orders for the apprehension of a number of other former Pemex officials, including the former Labor Relations Secretary, Julio Pinter. The men are accused of having diverted Pemex funds through a labor union to the Labastida campaign. The former candidate has denied any knowledge of illegalities. Mr. Labastida was defeated in the election by current president Vicente Fox of the National Action Party, ending 71 years of one-party rule by the PRI. Political opponents had often accused the PRI of having used government resources to bolster its own power.

PRI President Roberto Madrazo hailed the court action, saying that the initiation of a legal process will end what he called the "politicization" of the case by the Fox government. Mr. Madrazo also said he found it noteworthy that the judge's order came one day after the Mexican Federal Electoral Tribunal ordered the reopening of the investigation into alleged illegal funding of the Fox campaign in 2000.

The Federal Electoral Institute had conducted an investigation into reports that foreign contributors had funneled money to Mr. Fox through his family businesses, but ended that inquiry last August after finding no credible evidence of wrongdoing. The Electoral Tribunal, however, ruled that investigators had overlooked some important evidence and had failed to interview several key witnesses. The tribunal also ordered the Fox government to turn over all documents related to the probe.

Key figures in the Fox 2000 campaign say there were no illegal money transfers and that they are confident the new investigation will find no evidence of wrongdoing.