Mexican president: Gordillo has right to return to public life
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said Wednesday that former union boss and one-time political kingmaker Elba Esther Gordillo had every right to return to public life after her acquittal last year on corruption charges.
“Nobody’s right to participate will be denied, but each person should act in accord with his or her social responsibility,” the president said during his daily morning press conference.
Asked about the possibility that Gordillo may enter politics, Lopez Obrador said that the government would not “tell anyone not to participate or not to exercise his or her liberties.”
The former president of the roughly 2-million-member SNTE teachers union - one of the largest labor organizations in Latin America - was acquitted last August of money laundering and racketeering charges.
Gordillo, now 74, had earlier been found not guilty of tax offenses.
This week, the Web site La Silla Rota published a leaked video of Gordillo’s arrest on Feb. 26, 2013, showing federal agents boarding the then-union leader’s private jet to take her into custody.
“Don’t forget I am a lady. I know to respect the law. I’m not frightened. I’m not going to do anything because I have no crime,” she can be heard telling the officers.
Gordillo spent four years in prison and at a Mexico City hospital before being placed on house arrest in 2017 due to health reasons and her age.
Once described by scholar M. Delal Baer as “Mexico’s Jimmy Hoffa in a dress,” Gordillo was accused by prosecutors of using union funds to make purchases at luxury stores, have cosmetic surgery, purchase real estate and cover other spending.
The size and resources of the SNTE made it a force in Mexican politics and Gordillo was seen as an important ally by a succession of presidents.
In 2006, she was expelled from the traditionally dominant Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) for helping create the rival New Alliance Party.
Her 2013 arrest came a day after Gordillo spoke out against the education overhaul enacted by the PRI administration of President Enrique Peña Nieto , leading some to speculate that the case against her was politically motivated.
Following her acquittal last summer, Mexico City daily Reforma published a front-page story that said Gordillo claimed she inherited assets worth 373 million pesos (about $19.6 million) from her mother, a rural schoolteacher.
Since taking office Dec. 1, Lopez Obrador has started the process of undoing Peña Nieto’s educational policies, which spurred widespread strikes and protests by teachers.