Paraphrasing miners who were able to escape from the coal pit when a torrent of water burst and trapped 10 miners in the water, only a miracle will allow them to be found alive. The water that flooded the well of the “Las Conchas” mining complex, in Sabinas, is just one of the problems. What the authorities already know that they will find today, or tomorrow Thursday when the water levels allow the rescue, are the wooden poles that were used in the well, mud and ash that will be difficult to dig out in order to reach the miners. The outcome of what happens there will be the beginning of another hard road that the director of the Federal Electricity Commission, Manuel Bartlett, faces.
The investigation carried out by the Attorney General’s Office to determine responsibilities will quickly run into Bartlett, because much of what is happening in that coal region has to do with him. But there is certainty that he is shielded, not only because of his relationship of more than 40 years with the prosecutor Alejandro Gertz Manero, but because of what Bartlett has done since the beginning of the government to hasten the transfer of regional political control from the PRI in the Carboniferous Region. , to Morena.
The first steps to control the region were taken by Bartlett in 2020, announcing in an interview with a Saltillo newspaper that the Coahuila Mining Development Promoter, which was an intermediary in the purchase and sale of coal from small producers of the Carboniferous Region, would stop supplying coal orders, which from that moment would be by direct emission and without intermediaries by the CFE. In this way, he eliminated the state government from any relationship with the producers, and assumed the direct relationship with all of them.
To pull off the plan, according to people familiar with the details of what came next, Bartlett tweaked the value of coal, giving more to smallholders and far less to big producers. By prioritizing small producers, experts in the sector explained, they generated “coyotaje.” Bartlett had said that PRODEME would disappear because it was corrupt, but what it caused was widespread corruption. The small producers ended up reselling the coal to the large producers at the foot of the well, who, in turn, resold it to the CFE at a higher cost.
In Bartlett’s design, just over 70 producers were chosen, but in an exception to his original decision, he also chose two greats to work with. The main ones were Tania Flores, mayor of Múzquiz, and her brother Antonio -known as “Tony”-, who are today the main beneficiaries of the CFE contracts. Tania Flores took office this year in that coal-mining municipality, where she arrived with the Morena flag.
“Tony” has been the coal supplier most favored by the CFE since the López Obrador government began, having received contracts for Minera Don Chilo, where his father Isidro is also a partner, for 255 million pesos. His sister Tania is not far behind, being one of the main suppliers of the parastatal through Minera Flores de la Carbonifera, owned by her, which she received in May of last year a contract for more than 200 million. of weights. The mayor, who faced criticism for having obtained that contract while she was a Morena candidate, protected herself by disappearing shortly after she was assigned that value, her name disappearing from the charter.
The second large producer selected by Bartlett was Fernando Mendoza Bernal, owner of Fervim Engineering, located in Sabinas, and dedicated to the extraction of mineral coal and collection of hazardous waste. Mendoza, like other large coal producers in that region, has been involved in scandals over its mining management, but has suffered no consequences. On the contrary. Mendoza Bernal is currently betting on the future, and is one of the main promoters of the Undersecretary for Security and Citizen Protection, Ricardo Mejía Berdeja, who is one of the strongest contenders for Morena’s candidacy for the Coahuila government.
There is partial information about a third major producer who was also chosen by Bartlett. Unofficially they identify him as Régulo Zapata Jaime, who, as noted yesterday, his company Beneficio Carboniferos has obtained contracts from the CFE for more than 250 million pesos since 2019. That company has been linked to the tragedy at the “Las Conchas” mine. , where 10 miners are trapped.
A fourth person, although not on Bartlett’s list, but who is considered the largest coal producer in that region, is the senator from Morena, Armando Guadiana, who was initially pointed out as the owner of “Las Conchas”. . That mine is not his, but many others are. Guadiana has been an important financier of Morena campaigns, for which for a long time he has had a respectful and grateful treatment from López Obrador, who has allowed him to forgive tax debts for more than two and a half million pesos in companies where appears as a shareholder or legal representative.
Bartlett’s design, which effectively gave him control in the Carboniferous Region, has been a source of conflict with the governor of Coahuila, Miguel Riquelme, who accused him of lowering prices, causing carelessness in the maintenance of the mines, which was answered by the director of the CFE who has only wanted to protect the interests of the big producers.
Controlling the Carboniferous Region is strategic. Next year there are elections for governor and Coahuila is where the most oiled electoral machinery of the PRI operates. Bartlett’s role has been fundamental in removing support and resources from the PRI, transferring them to Morena. This strategic operation is a good shield against an investigation by the Attorney General’s Office that, before justice, works politically.
Raymundo Riva Palacio
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