The so-called secret game that allowed presidents to have a certain amount of resources at their discretion came to an end last week with the publication in the Official Gazette of the Federation of the reform to article 74 of the Constitution, which prohibits the use of this millionaire fund that operated in Mexico since 1917 and that was mostly used for political-electoral purposes.
Mexico City. “Salinas stole half of the secret account. He did many things (…) López Portillo destroyed the country and Salinas in the end too, ”said Luis Téllez Kuenzler, Secretary of Communications and Transportation during Felipe Calderón’s six-year term in a call recorded by the writer Diana Isabel Pando and made public on February 12, 2009, on the MVS radio newscast hosted at that time by journalist Carmen Aristegui.
Since the approval of the Constitution in 1917, the so-called secret item was part of the federal budget, but last week it officially came to an end when the decree that amended Article 74 was published in the Official Gazette of the Federation (DOF). of the Political Constitution of the United Mexican States, which prohibits this millionaire fund that allowed the President, in turn, to have a certain amount of resources at his discretion. Most of this money ended up in the pockets of the federal president or was used for political-electoral purposes.
In 1993, for example, former president Carlos Salinas de Gortari (1988-1994) managed the equivalent of four billion pesos from that game, and according to the opposition parties, this money was used to favor his party, the PRI, it was an electoral year.
In May 2009, three months after Luis Téllez’s audio was broadcast, former President Miguel de la Madrid Hurtado (1982-1988) declared in a radio interview with Carmen Aristegui that Salinas managed a secret party larger than the one he used and that it was possible that half of that resource had been stolen:
– How did Salinas abuse that secret game? Because it was much bigger than the one you played, that’s clear.
“How big was this secret party in relation to what you did?” Five, ten times, a hundred times?
– A hundred times? And the money used?
-There he goes.
– A few weeks ago the scandal with Luis Téllez arose because his voice was recorded saying that (Carlos Salinas) stole half of the secret account.
“Do you think he stole half?”
-If it’s posible.
But Carlos Salinas is not the only former president who is accused of taking money from the secret party to enrich himself or benefit his party, Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de León (1994 to 2000) and Vicente Fox Quesada (2000-2006) as well.
Morena Congressman Pablo Gómez, who in 1979 brought to Congress the issue of eliminating the presidential secret ballot, stated in an interview that this fund was used by the presidents as discretionary expenses. “By law, it had to be justified, but no invoices were ever presented or anything. It stayed for many years in Branch 23 as a party that had a reference to a constitutional precept, but it was never called by name, it was secret in two aspects: its existence and its quantity were not justified. It was not known what it was used for ”.
Pablo Gómez pointed out that Salinas used the secret game in a very special way and the issue reached the courts.
“A part of that secret game he gave to his brother Raúl and he was prosecuted in Zedillo’s time as allegedly responsible for having stolen part of the secret game,” he said. “Then a judge exonerated Raúl Salinas saying that the secret item did not require justification, which is completely false, but it is the belief that was always held, that the secret nature of the item meant that the expense did not have to be verified.”
According to data compiled by Deputy Pablo Gómez, the game with Salinas increased considerably. “In 1988, when De la Madrid left power, it was at 90 million dollars and Salinas left it at almost 200 million dollars in 1994.”
Professor Sonia Juárez Moreno, an academic from the Aragón School of Higher Studies at UNAM, mentioned in an interview that the secret departure of the presidents was intended to be used for contingencies of the Nation, however, the leaders used it in a way.
“They comment that the one who spent the most was Carlos Salinas de Gortari. Some used it for personal expenses, others to finance campaigns of their successors as in the case of Fox, “he explained.
The prohibition of the secret game comes just a few months after the Popular Consultation (August 1) on the political actors of the past, an exercise that will allow Mexicans to decide whether or not to endorse the actions of the last five former presidents of Mexico.
According to the Constitution, these items should be assigned to the secretariats of State and exercised with the signature of the President, however, this did not happen in the past six-year terms and was a violation of the law.
“In the PRI administration, the funds were not subject to verification or accountability. The former Treasury Accounting Office, then the supervisory body of the Chamber of Deputies, was not empowered to supervise the use of that money (…) The Party of the Democratic Revolution denounced former President Vicente Fox of diversion of resources from the secret party to support the current president’s PAN campaign in 2006 ”, indicated an initiative published in the Parliamentary Gazette in 2011 by Jaime Fernando Cárdenas Gracia, then a PT Deputy, which sought to prohibit the secret game.
In 2006, the last year of Fox’s six-year term, legislators tried to regulate the secret presidential game by including in article 49 of the Federal Budget and Fiscal Responsibility Law the following: “The secret games referred to in article 75 Section IV of the Political Constitution, which is included in the Expenditure Budget, may only be used for national security expenses and will be subject to supervision by the Superior Audit of the Federation (ASF). The information used, as well as that derived from its results, will be reserved and confidential ”.
However, with Felipe Calderón Hinojosa (2006-2012) the money from this fund was used to finance “confidential expenses” in the fight against organized crime, according to complaints made by opposition legislators in 2011.
“The Government of Felipe Calderón has allocated up to 12 billion pesos to the secret game throughout his six-year term to finance confidential and reserved expenses in the fight against organized crime, money that has been used to pay for covert operations, protected witnesses, infiltrating agents into organized crime networks, renting safe houses, preparing surprise operations to detain alleged members of organized crime, among other actions, “said Cárdenas Gracia in 2011.
In the Calderón administration, the Superior Audit Office of the Federation (ASF) carried out two audits on this item of the then-Attorney General’s Office (2008 and 2006 public accounts), one of the CISEN (2007 public account), one of the Federal Police (public account 2006) and another to the National Migration Institute (public account 2005).
The reviews, however, focused on verifying regulatory compliance, so there were only recommendations without any remedial action.
According to the reform initiative to eliminate the secret item made by Cárdenas Gracia in 2011, the resources assigned by dependency within item 33701 in Calderón’s six-year term were the following:
– Ministry of the Interior: 642 million 280 thousand pesos.
–Secretariat of National Defense: 57 million 60.8 thousand pesos.
– Secretary of the Navy: 29 million 505 thousand pesos.
–Presidency of the Republic: 11 million 941 thousand pesos.
–CISEN: 563 million 984 thousand pesos.
–SAT: 30 million 819 thousand pesos.
–SSP: 5 thousand 859 million pesos.
–Federal Police: 4,294 million 173 thousand pesos.
–National Institute of Migration: 119 million 948 thousand pesos.
With former President Enrique Peña Nieto (2012-2018) This resource was mostly used for “national security expenses”, today in the sights of the Financial Intelligence Unit (UIF) and the Ministry of Public Function (SFP), revealed the newspaper Milenio in July of last year.
It is about an item of more than 40 billion pesos that would have been created to “finance intelligence, emergency and danger missions aimed at fighting drug cartels.” Such amounts were delivered in a period of six years (2013-2018), practically during the entire Peña administration.
From 1979 – when the elimination of the game was proposed for the first time – until 2021 it took 42 years for legislators to reform Article 74 so that secret games were prohibited.
“During the following years they continued to insist that it be eliminated, but they did not want it, they wanted to continue having it in the Constitution just in case it could be activated, but now when we came to Congress and being the majority, one of the tasks we had consisted of not to eliminate the precept but to change it to directly prohibit the departure, because if we had eliminated it anyway it could be done in the Budget, on the other hand, it is already prohibited by the Constitution because it will be much more difficult to restore it, “said Deputy Pablo Gómez, pioneer of this proposal.
Now with the amendment to article 74, the reference to secret items was as follows: “There may not be secret items in the Budget of Expenditures of the Federation.”
Mexico Daily Post