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Union Chief in Mexico to Face Trial

October 26, 2003|From Reuters

MEXICO CITY — A judge has ordered the leader of union workers at Mexico's state oil monopoly, Pemex, held for trial on embezzlement and other charges, the attorney general said Saturday.

The federal court's ruling was a victory for the government in a multimillion-dollar election fraud case known here as "Pemexgate." The case is part of a broad effort by President Vicente Fox to crack down on corruption in high places.

The judge ruled that there was sufficient evidence to try union leader Carlos Romero Deschamps, although he remained free under a previous court order and could post bail, the attorney general's office said in a statement.

The government has accused Romero and other union leaders of funneling about $140 million in Pemex funds to the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, which governed Mexico before Fox took office.

The money allegedly was used to fund the PRI's unsuccessful presidential campaign in 2000, when Fox was elected, ending seven decades of PRI rule.

In July, the government dropped money-laundering and organized-crime charges against the union leaders and former Pemex Chief Executive Rogelio Montemayor, saying it had not found enough evidence that the funds came from an illegal source. Officials said at the time that they were studying embezzlement and other charges.

Efforts to prosecute Romero and two other union leaders had been difficult because they had immunity from prosecution as federal lawmakers. They lost that protection when their congressional terms ended in September.

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