Last Monday, Jaime Cárdenas Gracia resigned from the management of the Institute to Return the Stolen People (INDEP) to return to academic life within UNAM. Since then, and despite the friendship that has uneded them for years, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has criticized the decision and accused that it must have been lacking in the desire or fear of Cardenas to enter the public service and combat corruption.
The relationship between Cardenas and López Obrador goes back several years. The former director of INDEP in addition to being an academic has been close to the left: he was deputy between 2009 and 2012 by the PT and always supported the movement of López Obrador.
In 2011, when Morena was not yet a party, Cárdenas Gracia was part of the advisory council – which was composed of 84 citizens, writers, intellectuals, entrepreneurs, academics and scientists, among others – to outline the functioning of the movement.
Lee: Jaime Cardenas had to clean up Institute to Return the Stolen but did not enter: AMLO
In 2018, the Doctor of Law by UNAM told the Sol of Mexico that he considered López Obrador «the founder, the undisputed leader of the movement, of the party; we all respect it, we all want it.»
In questioning why, despite his closeness to López Obrador, he had not participated in the election in 2018, Jaime Cárdenas said that at the time he had tasks at UNAM, where he is an academic, but that they were still in contact.» I have great personal and political appreciation for Mr. López Obrador; it’s not a remote problem, I’m with Morena and with him,» he said then.
This friendship, in addition to cardenas’ résumé, were the reasons for the president to appoint him director of INDEP last June. Three months was enough for the academic to abandon the so-called Fourth Transformation, driven by the president, and in passing denounce the various irregularities and deficiencies in INDEP.
Among other things, in his resignation letter, Cardenas said he detected alleged thefts of some confiscated goods, contracts to benefit companies to the detriment of the Institute, and improper use of computer systems in electronic auctions.
These allegations led to the annoyance of the president, who criticized his old friend because, according to him, he «did not enter» to clean up the corruption in the body.
Two days after the resignation, the representative noted that Cardenas’ decision was for lack of desire, fear and helplessness. «The animal is of good size but this is David’s fight against Goliath. It’s a transformation, it’s not a field day, it’s not chipilin tamalitos,» he said.
López Obrador added that to be a public servant «it takes desire and daring», but that not everyone has it even if they are honest people.
«Public administration, more in times of transformation, requires a lot of dedication and fatigue. There are very good, honest people with convictions, intelligent, but they are not given the work as a public servant,» the representative said at his conference a day earlier.
Following these statements, the former director of INDEP accused the president of having prejudice towards academics, because he thinks they are not working, and assured that he does consider himself fit to serve as a public official.
Read: Jewellery theft, supplier debts and lack of resources, so does the Institute to Return the Stolen
In an interview with Reforma, Cárdenas recounted that being at the helm of INDEP, the president and his private secretary asked him for more rigor, more strength, and on one occasion asked him to dismiss half the Institute, which involved the dismissal of 78 civil servants with a place. He developed a staff reduction plan, he said, however it was not realized.
«They believed that I would have total, blind obedience to what they told me and, of course, they did not have to convince me, I was already convinced. But the difference was in that method in procedural compliance,» he said.
Cardenas called INDEP «a barrel of gunpowder» that in addition to the irregularities and deficiencies reported in its resignation letter, is a government-based body for obtaining seized property.
«We ask for loyalty blindly»
At his morning conference on Thursday, President López Obrador spoke again about Cardenas Gracia in the face of His statements that his government seeks full obedience.
«(Jaime Cardenas) is right, we ask for loyalty blindly, to the transformation project, because the people chose us for that (…) to end corruption, to end abuses and to carry out an austere government,» the representative said.
He added, «It’s loyalty to the people, basically not to me. Loyalty to people becomes, mostlyat times, in abjectness, in servileness. We want loyalty to the transformation project, that’s what we ask.»
On the alleged non-compliance with procedures within INDEP, the president argued that within the government there are a tangle of rules that sometimes prevent progress towards doing justice.
Read: AMLO government has failed to reverse corrupt inertia, says ex-indep
«Then doing something for the people costs (…) what technocrats, neoliberals or those who have an academic background detached from reality would like, who do not want to transform that reality, because we do nothing; but no, here the transformation is going to take place,» he added.
«And whoever doesn’t agree, for in complete freedom he can say, ‘I don’t agree’ and also go to the Reform and Televisa, if possible, and other means, because they will open the spaces for them to testify against us, but no way, what do we do to them?» he said.
As for the irregularities and alleged thefts reported by Cardenas, López Obrador assured that if there are allegations going to be investigated, «but this is more than anything a polylabel issue, there is nothing to worry about.»
With information from El Sol de México and Reforma (subscription required).
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