A powerful top official representing President Enrique Peña Nieto’s ruling party in Mexico City was suddenly removed from his post on Wednesday after a radio journalist linked him to a prostitution network.
For many years, Cuauhtémoc Gutiérrez de la Torre had served as local president in the capital for the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). But the political grouping kicked him out just hours after the allegations were broadcast.
“While asking the Attorney General’s Office to conduct a quick and exhaustive inquiry to determine if there was any alleged criminal conduct, such as that which was made public this morning on a radio news program, PRI’s national leadership reiterates its commitment to seek justice, and rejects all types of conduct that restrict the freedom or harm the dignity of any person,” the party said in a statement.
The allegations were broadcast on news show Noticias MVS, which is hosted by popular journalist Carmen Aristegui. In a special report, she claimed that Gutiérrez de la Torre had hired a group of women between the ages of 18 and 32 through newspaper ads seeking “female personnel to work in government offices.” The monthly salary offered was 11,000 pesos (about $850).
One woman who works for Aristegui’s investigative team answered the ad, and said that during the interview Gutiérrez de la Torre’s assistants took her measurements. They also asked all prospective candidates to dress formally but wear high heels and bring a change of clothing.
“The candidates for these so-called government jobs don’t realize that they are being hired to work as prostitutes,” the report stated. According to the journalists, the women who are hired must have sexual relations with Gutiérrez de la Torre.
It is a lie, everything has been a lie,” Gutierrez de la Torre said in response
During the broadcast, Gutierrez de la Torre called the radio station to deny the allegations. “These are the same falsities that were investigated 12 years ago. First it was Reforma newspaper and now you,” he said. “It is a lie, everything has been a lie.”
After a few hours, the PRI issued a statement explaining that Gutiérrez de la Torre had agreed to take a leave of absence.
In 2003, while he was a councilman in Mexico City, Reforma reported that Gutiérrez de la Torre had recruited young women to accompany him to private parties and public receptions. The daily reported that some women were paid up to 14,000 pesos if they spent the night with him.
Gutiérrez de la Torre is known in political circles as El Basuritas (little trash man) after his father Rafael Gutiérrez (known as El rey de la basura, “the trash king”) accumulated political power and wealth from garbage contracts in the Mexican capital. After the father’s death, Gutiérrez de la Torre became the PRI’s strongman in Mexico City, while his aides had been involved in several public scandals.
Now that the PRI president is out, the political scene for the ruling party is still up in the air. Gutiérrez de la Torre, who is considered part of the party’s old guard, sometimes clashed with Peña Nieto over the president’s institutional reforms. But now that he is gone, the president has a chance to send a message to other old-time party members that a new PRI is in the making.