Candidates vowing to shake up the culture inside Mexico’s massive oil workers’ union lashed out on Monday against a leadership rival seen by some of them as a holdover from what they described as its troubled past, just days ahead of a key vote.
Some 90,000 workers from national oil company Pemex are eligible to cast ballots on Jan. 31 in the first direct election in the powerful union’s 86-year history, mandated by a recent labor reform that aims to let workers choose their representation and break the grip of entrenched trade unions.
Two candidates who spoke at a news conference criticized contender Ricardo Aldana, the union’s current treasurer, for carrying on the legacy of former union head Carlos Romero Deschamps, who stood down in 2019 after the president said he was under investigation for using illicit funds.
“These projects are camouflaged to carry on the corruption of Carlos Romero Deschamps,” said rival candidate Maria Cristina Alonso, referring to Aldana. “How dare they try to represent us?”
Fellow candidate Daniel Aranda accused past union leadership of being more interested in getting rich than protecting workers and suggested Aldana may have embezzled funds to help the Institutional Revolutionary Party or PRI.
Both Aldana and Romero Deschamps are veteran politicians with the PRI, which ruled Mexico for most of the 20th century.
“It’s all been robbery, looting… They live in sumptuous houses, homes with yachts, even with airplanes or helicopters,” Aranda said.
Both spoke alongside Aldana in a news conference hosted by Mexico’s labor minister, who sought to highlight the 25 candidates running for the union’s top post.
Five hopefuls spoke on Monday, while the other candidates will do so later this week.
Aldana, who spoke first, said he hoped to improve workers’ quality of life, increase productivity and implement accountability and transparency measures.