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Mexico oil union leader resigns amid complaints

PETER ORSI
FILE - In this Sept. 29, 2000 file photo, leader of Mexico’s oil workers union Carlos Romero Deschamps, right, Labor Secretary Carlos Maria Abascal, center, and Pemex director Raul Munoz Leos, arrive to a media conference in Mexico City. Several Mexican news media are reporting the resignation of Romero Deschamps, who has been in the job since 1993. El Universal says the union of Pemex workers will issue a statement later Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Ismael Rojas, File)

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Longtime Mexican oil workers union boss Carlos Romero Deschamps, who ruled the syndicate with an iron fist for nearly three decades, resigned Wednesday following repeated scandals over alleged corruption.

Deschamps, who had been in the job since 1993, presented his resignation at a closed-door meeting and later published an open later listing his accomplishments.

"Facing an unfavorable scenario for the honest carrying out of my responsibility as Secretary General, conscious that my fundamental commitment is to guarantee the stability of our union organization and the defense of the workers' rights, I have decided ... to present my resignation," Deschamps wrote.

There was no immediate comment from state oil company Petroleos Mexicanos.

Earlier in the day, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said two complaints against Deschamps had been filed with the federal Attorney General's Office related to how he obtained his income.

The Mexican treasury's Financial Intelligence Unit filed two complaints against Deschamps with the Attorney General's Office, said an official with the unit who agreed to discuss the matter only if not quoted by name because they were not authorized to talk about the case publicly. The complaints were related to alleged operations with illicit resources, the official said.

Deschamps is also a senator for the Institutional Revolutionary Party, which monopolized Mexican politics for 71 years until the historic 2000 election. He was not elected directly but rather named to the Senate under a system allotting some seats to parties according to their percentage of the vote.

Suspicions of influence-peddling have long surrounded Deschamps, with he and family members displaying a lavish lifestyle of luxurious goods, vehicles, trips and properties. A 2013 Forbes article named him one of Mexico's 10 most corrupt.

In 2002, under then President Vicente Fox of the National Action Party, investigators looked into charges of money laundering and embezzlement of over $11 million by Pemex officials. Deschamps was among those targeted.

But repeated suspicions, allegations and complaints against Deschamps over the decades never turned into criminal conviction, and he denies wrongdoing. "My hands are clean," he has said.

Deschamps said in his letter that he had started working for the oil company in 1959 at age 14 and rose through the ranks.

Asked about Deschamps on Tuesday, López Obrador suggested it was up to him to decide his future amid the investigations and said there was no persecution against the union boss.

"If he makes the decision to leave the union to attend to these matters, that is his right," the president said. "We are not going to get involved — that is also an important change — in putting in a replacement, they have to resolve that in the union."

In a statement, the opposition Democratic Revolution Party called Deschamps' resignation "good news for Mexican labor, since for years he has enriched himself at the expense of workers and the enormous corruption that there has been at Pemex for a long time."

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Associated Press writer E. Eduardo Castillo contributed to this report.