Mexico's anti-corruption bill falls short of demands

Mexico City (AFP) - Mexico's Congress passed anti-corruption legislation, but civil groups complained the ruling party defanged a key measure demanding that public servants make their wealth known.

The lower house passed the long-sought measures late Thursday, a day after the Senate, and sent them to President Enrique Pena Nieto for his signature.

But opposition lawmakers and civil groups said Pena Nieto's Institutional Revolution Party (PRI) had taken the teeth out of a bill requiring officials and lawmakers to reveal their assets, tax returns and potential conflicts of interest.

The PRI and its allies voted in favor of a clause that allows officials to withhold information that "can affect the private life or private information."

The measure was pressed by citizens who gathered more than 600,000 signatures in favor of the so-called "3 de 3," or "3 of 3" initiative.

Jesus Zambrano, leader of the leftist Democratic Revolution Party (PRD), said the bill became a "legislative Frankenstein" and represented a "slap in the face of society which demanded a full-frontal attack against corruption."

Zambrano urged Pena Nieto to veto the bill.

Alexandra Zapata, a researcher at the Mexican Competitiveness Institute think tank, which lobbied for the bill, said the Congress had "lost a historic opportunity."

The final legislation was "very far from what citizens expected" and demanded for more than a year, she said.

But Cesar Camacho, the PRI's coordinator in the lower chamber, denied that the legislation was diluted and stressed that it was just one component of a package of bills, which includes the creation of a special anti-corruption prosecutor.

He defended the privacy clause in the declaration of assets.

"It's important that we don't harm people while we strengthen the system," Camacho told radio Imagen, adding that officials could be vulnerable to organized crime by making all their information public.

"Each will decide if the information is made public or not," he said.

Business leaders, who had pushed for a robust anti-corruption bill, were also angry at the outcome because the PRI added a clause extending the public information rules to companies or people who win government contracts.

The country's main business group, Coparmex, which represents 36,000 companies, held a protest on Thursday at the Angel of Independence monument.

Coparmex vice president Valeriano Suarez said lawmakers created a system that would produce so many declarations of assets that "theirs would get lost."

But the PRI denied that the bill would force every employee of a company that does government work to reveal their personal wealth.

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