Mexico labor minister defends Pemex union boss vote despite influence concerns

Pemex logo is pictured during the launch of a new franchise and commercial strategy by Pemex, in Mexico City, Mexico, November 15, 2017. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido/File Photo

MEXICO CITY, Jan 14 (Reuters) - Mexican Labor Minister Luisa Maria Alcalde on Friday defended an impending vote to elect a new leader of the trade union of state oil company Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex) over concerns that the influence of a controversial old union boss could linger on.

Politicians, including in the ruling party, have criticized the candidacy of Ricardo Aldana, Pemex treasurer under the longtime union boss Carlos Romero Deschamps, who stood down in 2019 after the president said he was under investigation.

Union officials said at an event broadcast on social media late last year that Aldana would have strong backing in the election, urging Pemex workers to vote for him.

Asked if the administration could be sure Romero Deschamps' would not retain influence at the union, Alcalde said the Jan. 31 vote would be "free, democratic and fair."

"We can't say 'yes' to this one, 'no' to that one, 'this one has certain ties, he has this back story,' it's the workers who will decide," she told a regular news conference.

Officials in 2019 said Romero Deschamps, who has denied wrongdoing, was being investigated on suspicion of conducting operations with funds of illicit origin.

Both Aldana and Romero Deschamps are veteran politicians in the long-ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador consigned to a historic defeat when he was elected in 2018.

Cecilia Sanchez, a senator with Lopez Obrador's National Regeneration Movement (MORENA) who is also seeking to lead the union, rebuked the labor ministry on Twitter after the news conference and said the old bosses were being left in charge.

Aldana did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

For decades, Pemex has been dogged with accusations that it is a breeding ground for corruption.

Reporting by Mexico City Newsroom; editing by Grant McCool

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