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Mexico’s central bank fumes over cash law as affront to its autonomy

Mexico’s central bank fumes over cash law as affront to its autonomy

December 11, 2020

By Dave Graham

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexico’s central bank on Thursday hit back against a draft law moving through Congress, saying the legislation sold as a fillip for migrants jeopardized its independence and could force it to handle the proceeds of drug cartels.

Mexico’s Senate on Wednesday passed the bill that would make the Bank of Mexico (Banxico) buy up cash that commercial banks cannot return to the financial system. That, critics say, could mean the bank has to absorb money made by organized crime.

The law must still pass the lower house of Congress. President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, whose ruling National Regeneration Movement (MORENA) crafted the proposal, said it should be respected if it passes both chambers.

The tensions are the latest in a string of ructions that have arisen between Banxico and MORENA and Lopez Obrador on issues ranging from the use of its reserves to economic policy.

Late on Wednesday, Banxico sharply criticized the law, saying it would force the bank to undertake “high risk” operations that could put international reserves at risk and compromise its ability to safeguard the value of the peso.

Investors appeared unimpressed by the initiative.

The peso struggled against the dollar on Thursday after the Senate’s approval of the bill, falling by 0.8%.

Members of the Banxico board fired off more broadsides on Thursday, including Bank of Mexico Governor Alejandro de Leon, who said in an interview on local radio the legislation was “very unwise” and “undermines the central bank’s autonomy.”

De Leon called on lower house lawmakers to hold talks with the central bank in a bid to rectify the initiative.

Meanwhile Gerardo Esquivel, another Banxico board member to sound the alarm over the bill, on Thursday urged people to read a Twitter thread by economist Valeria Moy that flagged the risks of drug traffickers’ cash entering the bank’s reserves.

MORENA denies the bill will encourage money laundering and says it will help poor migrant families disadvantaged by the financial system by making it easier for them to offload cash.

Critics say that irrespective of the legislation’s intentions, it risks pushing the central bank onto a slippery slope of increasing interference from lawmakers.

“This could end up being a Trojan Horse,” said Gabriela Siller, an economist at bank Banco Base, arguing the bill could put Banxico in the sights of international financial authorities. “It’s an unnecessary risk for the Bank of Mexico.”

(Reporting by Dave Graham; Additional reporting by Ana Isabel Martinez, Daina Beth Solomon and Sharay Angulo; Editing by Tom Brown)

The post Mexico’s central bank fumes over cash law as affront to its autonomy first appeared on One America News Network.

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