Mexico’s scientific community reacted with outrage after the country’s chief prosecutor requested arrest warrants against 31 scientists, researchers and academics on charges of organized crime, money laundering and embezzlement – charges who could bring them alongside the barons of the drug cartel in one of the country’s most notorious prisons. .
A judge at the Altiplano maximum security prison -om which Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán escaped in 2015 – denied on Wednesday that he had granted the arrest warrants. But the federal prosecutor immediately announced his intention to issue arrest warrants for the third time.
University professors have been accused of violating a law that prevents members of an advisory board from receiving money from a government science fund. But this law was passed in 2019, and scientists got the $ 2.5 million years earlier, when it was apparently legal. Those involved denied that the funds were illegal or embezzled.
The National Council for Science and Technology (Conacyt) called the reaction to the arrest warrant requests a “concerted wave of disinformation” which was sowing “terror” in the scientific community.
“They talk about funds of illicit origin, and they call it organized crime when it was a [nonprofit] organization, ”said Alma Maldonado, researcher at the public research center Cinvestav. “It’s completely absurd to bring him to this level of accusation. “
But scientists and academics are describing the lawsuits as an attempt to silence them as President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s administration imposes punitive austerity policies and neglects science in its response to the pandemic.
“The message from Conacyt and the prosecutor to the national university community is loud and clear: if you think differently than us, it is better to find something else to do,” wrote political scientist Javier Aparicio in the newspaper Excélsior.
The criminal charges have compounded the acrimony between the López Obrador administration and the scientific community. AMLO, as the president is called, wound up public trusts to fund academic and scientific research, alleging corruption and claiming the money would pay for pandemic relief.
Elena Álvarez-Buylla, the director of Conacyt, often attacks “neoliberal science” and said in 2020 that it “produced the most brilliant and perhaps the most unnecessary breakthroughs, like reaching the moon”.
The attempt to criminally charge academics with organized crime-related offenses has raised questions in Mexico about prosecution priorities – at a time when the president, who often criticizes journalists and scientists, is pushing a policy of “Hugs, no balls” and rarely has a crossword for drug cartel bosses.
With files from the Associated Press