Mar 4, 2013

If Mexico wants to launch anti-corruption crusade, there are plenty of officials to go after

Miami Herald 
By Tim Johnson
McClatchy Newspapers

Mexico City -- The daughter of the boss of Mexico’s powerful oil workers union made a youthful indiscretion when she went to Europe last year: She posted photos of her lavish odyssey on Facebook.

The images showed Paulina Romero Deschamps touring French chateaus, staying with her three pet English bulldogs in five-star hotels, and living it up like the daughter of a sultan. She noted her fondness for Hermes calfskin Birkin handbags (price tag: $12,000) and praised the rare Spanish Vega Sicilia wines, which can cost nearly $1,000 a bottle.

Romero’s father, Carlos Romero Deschamps, is indeed a sultan of sorts. As head of the 142,000-member state oil workers union since 1996, he controls the purse strings of an important union – and tells its members how to vote. His daughter’s trip sparked a media furor when the photos hit a Mexico City newspaper in May. Paulina’s Facebook page went silent.

Union bosses like Romero are suddenly in the news in Mexico. Last week, authorities arrested Elba Esther Gordillo, head of the national teachers union, and charged her with corruption and organized crime. Mexico’s attorney general accused her of using $200 million in union funds for shopping trips, facelifts and real estate sprees in California. Mexico’s new president, Enrique Pena Nieto, told a national television audience that his 3-month-old government would not abide by the misuse of union funds.  Read more. 

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