Critics of the Mexican government — particularly those angry about its handling of the case of the 43 disappeared students from Ayotzinapa — had reason to celebrate last week when the news broke that beleaguered Attorney General Jesús Murillo Karam would be stepping down from his post.
That excitement was tempered, however, when it became clear that Murillo was simply stepping aside in order to take a cabinet-level position as head of urban and rural development. And concerns became even more pronounced when President Enrique Peña Nieto named Murillo’s successor, Arely Gómez González.
Gómez, whose public sector career has spanned more than 30 years, has worked in the Attorney General’s office and is currently a senator.
Murillo Karam infuriated Mexicans with his handling of the Ayotzinapa case, which many viewed as incompetent at best and corrupt at worst. The situation hit a nadir during a press conference in November, when Murillo stopped taking questions and told the gathered crowd “Ya me cansé” (“I’m tired”), a phrase that became a rallying cry on social media.
The concerns about Gómez arise from the fact that her brother, Leopoldo Gómez, is currently vice president of Televisa News, part of Latin America’s largest mass media company, Televisa.
The television monopoly already has an unusually close relationship with the Mexican government. An investigation by The Guardian disclosed documents supporting allegations that Televisa gave Peña Nieto favorable coverage in the presidential election season — in exchange for a fee.
Mexico’s Federal Electoral Court ruled that Televisa had not done anything wrong in that case, but accusations still persist about the channel’s support for the president and Mexico’s ruling political party, the PRI.
During the elections, Televisa was still the subject of a number of protests accusing the channel of providing biased coverage — a claim that was supported by leaked diplomatic cables that voiced concern over the relationship between Peña Nieto and the company, with one cable writing, “It is widely accepted, for example, that the television monopoly Televisa backs the governor and provides him with an extraordinary amount of airtime and other kinds of coverage.”
Televisa was also the first to report Murillo’s resignation, breaking the news close to midnight on February 26. The timing and exclusivity of the report led some to wonder how the news station gained access to that information before any other outlets, and who their sources may be.
Given the close relationship between the media monopoly and the president’s administration, many in Mexico are concerned that appointing Gómez could lead to even more biased coverage on the part of the country’s main television channels — an especially troubling concept during a time when Mexico has seen a number of anti-government protests, occasionally ending in violence against demonstrators.
Peña Nieto called Gómez’s nomination “nothing more than part of the effort and goal of renewing the institution [of the Attorney General’s office],” and added that it would be the responsibility of Mexico’s Senate to consider her qualifications and decide whether to approve her.
Gómez, for her part, has denied that her new position may entail a conflict of interest, calling such allegations “imaginary” and insisting that “the only interests” she served were “those of the public.”
“My brother has worked in different places, sometimes in the public sector, and he has always done so with the same autonomy as me,” she told the Mexican Senate’s Justice Commission during an appointment hearing. “Our trajectories don’t have any connection,” she added.
Gómez’s appointment was confirmed unanimously by the Justice Commission, making confirmation by the full Senate, likely to take place today, the only remaining hurdle to her new office.
Gómez is not the only Peña Nieto nominee to come under fire for connections to Televisa. The president’s nomination of Eduardo Medina-Mora to the country’s Supreme Court has also raised concerns about Medina-Mora’s relationship with the media giant. Medina-Mora, currently serving as Mexico’s ambassador to the United States, counts Televisa’s vice president Bernardo Gómez (no relation to the nominee or her family) as one of his close childhood friends.
Given the fragile condition of Mexico’s government and growing opposition to Peña Nieto, his choice to, as some have said, “give the Attorney General’s office to Televisa” strikes many as yet another bad move by the man that TIME magazine once said was “saving Mexico.”