CORRESPONDENT IN MEXICO CITY
One hundred and a half academics have just expressed their concern to María Elena Álvarez-Buylla, director of the National Council of Science and Technology, for the plegal proceedings opened to 31 Mexican scientists who held high positions within the Mexican research community. Among those who have defended the rubric are scientists from all over the world ranging from Carlo Pietrobelli, professor at Georgetown and Roma Tre, Nanditha Mathew from the University of Pisa or scientist Marina Fedorova at LifeArc in London. In the letter they consider that the different organizations, for which the accused have worked, “carried out important initiatives in promoting the scientific and technological development of Mexico. However, they have been charged with criminal activities equivalent to those of the drug cartels, with sentences that could reach 80 years in prison.
In addition, they have added that the Declaration on Science and the Use of Scientific Knowledge of the United Nations Organization for Scientific and Cultural Education of the United Nations, of Budapest in 1999 to exonerate the academics who have promoted “the use of scientific knowledge for the well-being of populations, for peace and sustainable development ”.
Already last week Latin American researchers and academics from the US faculties of Columbia, Harvard, Princeton y Stanford, Joined by the French Sciences Po, they coincide in expressing “with great concern” the attempts by the Attorney General’s Office of the Republic of Mexico to convict 31 scientists already retired from the National Council of Science and Technology (Conacyt). It is this same body that has promoted the complaint against the scholars. Much of this scientific community, which is intended to stop, also became part of the Scientific and Technological Consultative Forum (FCCyT).
Code of conduct
To quell possible rumors about government institutions, the National Council for Science and Technology Several days ago it presented a new Code of Conduct that requires its employees and “project evaluation groups susceptible to support” to refrain “from issuing negative or unfavorable comments or opinions on Conacyt policies or programs.” As usual in the speeches of López Obrador, the previous administration is accused of corruption that “put their private interests before the general interest.” Science workers are asked to “be committed, above all, to the public ethics claimed by the Fourth Transformation,” an ideal towards a new socialist regime that is the motto of the Mexican president. Obviating that the Hippocratic oath of scientists issued by UNESCO claims “the existence of a social context that favors the independence and responsibility of researchers.”
A week ago the prestigious universities scattered throughout the West raised their voices in unison to condemn “any effort to create a climate of intimidation towards people dedicated to scientific work. Around this proclamation they have expressed “to follow with great concern the efforts of the Prosecutor’s Office to arrest and prosecute” their Mexican colleagues who were accused of money laundering and organized crime. Crimes that carry penalties of between 20 and 40 years in prison.
To show the profile of the accused, we meet Enrique Cabrero Mendoza, general director of the National Council of Science and Technology, from 2013 to 2018, and who also held the position of general director of the Center for Economic Research and Teaching for eight years.
Embezzlement – staying with public funds that they had to administer -, illicit use of attributions and powers, operations with resources of illicit origin and organized crime are part of the charges that were imputed to these men and women of science. With this arrest warrant, as the newspaper ‘El Universal’ narrates, it was intended to lock up the scholars in ‘El Altiplano’, a maximum security prison in the State of Mexico. Finally, Gregorio Salazar, a judge attached to the jail to which they were to be sent, did not see any crime.
Therefore, 34 scientists, including Alberto Díaz Cayeros, director of the Center for Latin American Studies at Stanford University, María Victoria Murillo, director of the Columbia Institute for Latin American Studies, and Steven Levitsky, director of the David Center for Latin American Studies Rockefeller, belonging to Harvard, issued a joint statement in which they applauded “judicial courage” without giving in “to political pressure to accept an arrest warrant based on dubious legal grounds,” in his words.
Secondly, the spokesman for the Presidency, Jesús Ramírez, hinted at the position of the Obrador Administration stating, through various tweets, that scientists belonging to the Scientific and Technological Consultative Forum spent almost 19 million euros on dry cleaning, meals, travel and salaries. And stressed that for 16 years they received 23 million euros, but only four went to science and technology projects. And the fact is that the Prosecutor’s Office bases its accusation on the fact that public money should go “exclusively to those projects to support scientific and technological research, technological development and innovation.”
The government also wanted to emphasize that “it does not persecute scientists or anyone, but it will not be an accessory to acts that damage the heritage of the Mexican people.” The former deputy director of legal affairs of the National Council of Science, José Rodrigo Roque, wanted to remind the economic medium ‘El Financiero’, that despite the fact that the Prosecutor’s Office was practically disqualified to accuse investigators with the same evidence and crimes, he warns that they will not stop trying to put you in jail. In fact, the Prosecutor’s Office has requested the appearance of 5 of the 31 scientists who will be informed of the crimes against them. Last Wednesday Gabriela Dutrénit Bielous, coordinator of the Consultative and Scientific Forum, went to the Special Prosecutor’s Office for Organized Crime to find out the investigation file against her for an alleged diversion of almost ten million euros.