Mexican government officials rack up costly flights, hotels and tours

Luis Videgaray (Photo: Google)

Budget constraints haven’t stopped senior officials of Mexico’s federal government from spending hundreds of thousands of pesos on their trips abroad and then failing to present proof of their expenses once they’re back.

Not all failed to provide details, but the commitment to accountability among the different departments of government was uneven in the data they presented after several information requests were filed by the newspaper El Universal.

The investigation found that while many officials presented detailed proof of all their expenses abroad, others literally crossed out hotel names or abstained outright from providing any proof of their travel expenses at all.

For example, Finance Secretary Luis Videgaray withheld the name of a hotel he uses while traveling the United States, deeming the information classified for the next 12 years on the grounds that disclosing the name could put his life or safety at risk.

In contrast, Interior Secretary Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong, responsible for Mexico’s internal security and combating drug cartels, delivered documentation from a Holiday Inn in which he stayed while on a business trip to the same country.

Alejandro Murat, former head of the housing institute Infonavit and now an Institutional Revolutionary Party candidate for governor of Oaxaca, traveled to France, Singapore and Brazil, but provided no record of his expenses, despite having been requested to do so.

A similar case is that of former Agriculture Secretary Enrique Martínez, who during a 2015 trip to Madrid reported only an 11,200-peso charge for laundry, but never presented the bill itself.

Luis Videgaray (Photo: Google)
Luis Videgaray (Photo: Google)

Like Osorio Chong, former Health Secretary Mercedes Juan and former national water commissioner José Luis Luege took a different approach. Both presented detailed billing information, right down to what kinds of drinks they enjoyed during their travels.

The Communications and Transportation Secretariat turned up as a major offender in terms of accountability.

After the government terminated a contract with a Chinese company for the construction of a high-speed train between Mexico City and Querétaro, the head of the secretariat, Gerardo Ruiz Esparza, made two trips to China to “alleviate tensions” with unhappy officials there.

Over 1 million pesos, about US$66,000 at the time, were spent on both trips. Two airline tickets for Secretary Ruiz cost 235,000 and 290,000 pesos each while his accommodation at the China World Summit Wing and the Grand Hyatt Beijing hotels was over 100,000 pesos for less than a week.

Another guest of the China World Summit Wing five-star, luxury hotel was Ildefonso Guajardo Villarreal, head of the Economy Secretariat, who visited in 2014 during an 11-day trip to China and Australia.

In the latter country, Villarreal lodged at the Hilton Hotel for four nights, spending 32,000 pesos (US $2,400).

Former Undersecretary for Legal Affairs and Human Rights Lía Limón —currently a federal Deputy for the Ecologist Green Party of Mexico (PVEM)— spent three days in Washington, D.C. in 2013, spending 21,000 pesos for three nights in a Westin hotel and 19,132 pesos on airfare.

The same year she made a two-day trip to New York City, spending 23,517 pesos on flights, one of which was in first class.

Limón travelled frequently: three 2014 trips to Geneva cost 203,544, 148,602, and 97,450 pesos, respectively. That same year she spent an undisclosed number of nights at the Hotel des Indes, in The Hague, Netherlands, paying 6,000 pesos per night.

The data gathered by Mexico City major newsàper El Universal revealed there were 237 trips abroad that cost the federal government 14.49 million pesos between 2012 and 2015, and included the final year of the Felipe Calderón administration.


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