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The big business that failed

by Yucatan Times
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The Great Museum of the Mayan World. Ivonne Ortega Yucatan’s former governor and Carlos Hank, the ones that profited the most.

MERIDA Yucatán (Grupo Megamedia/Diario de Yucatán) – The Great Museum of the Mayan World has become a “white elephant” and a headache for state finances. It was a big deal for businessman Carlos Hank Rhon and his family and Governor Ivonne Ortega Pacheco and her cronies, according to information obtained by Central 9, the Journalistic Investigation Unit of Grupo Megamedia.

Promotora de Cultura Yaxché S.A. de C.V. (PCY), the company owned by Hank Rhon that won the tender for the construction and operation of that museum, invested $770,425,594 between 2011 and 2012.

The company recovered that money in just over five years. Still, under the contract of the Service Delivery Project (PPS) signed with the government of Ortega Pacheco, Yaxché will continue to operate the museum until 2032, so it is estimated that in the end, would receive 6.8 billion pesos from the state government.

This payment has become unsustainable and onerous for the current state government, which is experiencing financial difficulties due to the pandemic and the flooding caused by tropical storm “Cristobal.” This prompted Governor Mauricio Vila Dosal to negotiate a $1.5 billion reduction in the final payment with the Hank family. Congress recently approved that negotiation, although the museum is rarely visited.

Ivonne Ortega promoted its construction, backed by then-Cultur director Jorge Esma Bazan, author of the idea – and promoter of another monumental failure, the Palace of Mayan Civilization in Yaxcabá – and by its Planning and Budget Secretary, Ulises Carrillo Cabrera. He gave financial and legal forms to the PPSs and defended this figure in public.

Carrillo Cabrera was also the leading promoter of the Ticul Hospital under the PPS scheme, another resounding failure of the Ivonne Ortega administration, whose construction was suspended by Rolando Zapata Bello because he considered the terms of the contract harmful to public finances.

Promotora de Cultura Yaxché is a partner of Hermes Infraestructura and La Peninsular Compañía Constructora, both owned by Hank Rhon.

For the construction and start of the museum’s operations, PCY obtained a credit from the Interacciones bank, also owned by the Hank family, at a “high rate,” according to state officials. Hermes and La Peninsular served as security for the loan.

In 2018, that bank merged with Banorte, also controlled by the Hanks. The museum was a profitable business for the Hank family, but also Ivonne and her family.

PCY’s partner, La Peninsular, took charge of building and equipping the museum. Still, she subcontracted much of the work to Idimsa, Ariel Medina Medina, a controversial builder very close to Ivonne Ortega Pacheco and Esma Bazán.

The construction of the museum was done outside of citizen scrutiny, because although it was paid for with government money, the PPSs are not governed by the public works law.

One evidence of Ortega Pacheco’s closeness to Medina Medina is the award of the contract to remodel the Siglo XXI Convention Center, Esma Bazán, which the government made in favor of one of its companies in 2010, at the cost of $39 million.

The Superior Audit Office of the Federation (ASF) reviewed this work shortly after and found deviations of $15.1 million.

The Zapata Bello government awarded the same builder another contract to remodel the Great Uxmal Hall of the Convention Center for more than $52 million in 2014, even though it was very similar to that done four years earlier.

Ivonne Ortega also assigned Idimsa the remodeling of Hidalgo Park in 2011 at the cost of $58 million, in exchange for only renewing the floors of the monument to Manuel Cepeda Peraza, rebuilding the sidewalks and walkways, opening green areas and lighting the facades.

In 2010, Esma Bazán, as director of Cultur, also maneuvered to assign the first stage of construction of the Palace of Mayan Civilization, in Yaxcabá, to that company, work carried out equally amid the expense and opacity and which was suspended in 2012 due to lack of resources.

Former governor Ivonne Ortega Pacheco incurred in another practice that benefited her. It is the self-sale of the museum’s land.

The venue was built at 299E, 60th Street, next to the Siglo XXI Convention Center, in a property that belonged to the state government since 1999. In 2009, Ivonne Ortega’s administration processed a bank loan for $1.87 billion, of which $110 million was used to buy the land. The operation took place on August 30, 2010. Since then, it has been considered a perfect act of “laundering” of resources, since the $110 million entered Cultur as credit and left as “cash” for the Executive, which allocated it to freely disposable expenses never reported.

By Central 9 – Journalistic Investigation Unit of Grupo Megamedia.

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