Mexican president owns no cars or real estate, but his wife does

Mexico's new President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador holds a news conference at National Palace in Mexico City, Mexico December 3, 2018. (REUTERS)
Updated 05 January 2019
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Mexican president owns no cars or real estate, but his wife does

  • Under a new national anti-corruption system, federal, state and local officials will soon be required to submit detailed disclosures about their income and assets, as well as those of their families

MEXICO CITY: Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Friday he owns no real estate, vehicles or personal property, echoing what experts say is a pattern among the country’s politicians of shifting assets to relatives.
Lopez Obrador, who took office in December, told a regular news conference his family’s cars and home are in his wife’s name.
The veteran leftist won a landslide victory in July after a campaign centered on rooting out corruption in Mexico, which experts say is among the worst in Latin America. Heg cuts an austere figure, ditching the presidential residence, flying coach and driving a white Volkswagen Jetta.
Transparency advocates welcome Lopez Obrador’s disclosure after battling to get members of his predecessor Enrique Pena Nieto’s administration to open up about their finances, said Alexandra Zapata of the Mexican Institution for Competitiveness (IMCO), a think-tank that promotes good governance and fighting corruption.
But his declaration raised as many questions about his wealth as it answered, she added.
“The president, in an effort to send this message of austerity, loses credibility in how he talks about his property, his assets and his interests,” said Zapata, who is the group’s director of education and civic innovation.
Lopez Obrador disclosed monthly net income of 108,744 pesos ($5,600) from his government work and savings worth 446,068 pesos.
In addition to real estate and vehicles, Lopez Obrador’s personal possessions and household goods, including works of art and other valuable objects, were disclosed in his wife’s name, a spokesman for the president’s office said.
Mexican politicians have long been accused of obscuring their wealth by registering assets under relatives’ names. Those who absorb the assets are sometimes referred to as “prestanombres,” or people who lend their names.
Lopez Obrador has slashed salaries for public officials, including his own, and stressed on Friday that others in his administration would be required to declare their assets, too.
The president said during the news conference that his principal asset had been a property in the southern state of Chiapas, which he inherited from his parents and is now registered under his children’s names.
“Money has never interested me,” he said. “I fight for ideals, for principles.”
Under a new national anti-corruption system, federal, state and local officials will soon be required to submit detailed disclosures about their income and assets, as well as those of their families. Lopez Obrador has long cast himself as a man of the people in a poor country. During the news conference, he said he has no credit card, a common refrain in his speeches. Just 37 percent of Mexicans had an account with a bank or other type of financial institution in 2017, according to a World Bank study of people over 15 years old.
Former Mexican President Vicente Fox, who backed another candidate in the election, criticized the disclosure.
“Only his grandmother could believe this,” Fox wrote in a post on Twitter. “Wake up, Mexico!!!“
($1 = 19.4200 Mexican pesos)


French yellow vests protest in Paris amid tighter security

Updated 5 min 26 sec ago
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French yellow vests protest in Paris amid tighter security

  • The Champs-Elysees was almost empty Saturday except for a huge police presence
  • Paris police detained 51 people by early afternoon, issued 29 fines and conducted 4,688 “preventive checks” on protesters entering the capital

PARIS: Thousands of French yellow vest demonstrators were marching through Paris on Saturday as authorities enforced bans on protests in certain areas and displayed enhanced security measures to avoid a repeat of last week’s riots in the capital.
The crowd gathered peacefully Saturday at Denfert-Rochereau Square in southern Paris and then headed north. The protesters are expected to finish Saturday’s march in the tourist-heavy neighborhood of Montmartre around its signature monument, the hilltop Sacre-Coeur Cathedral.
French authorities have banned protests from the Champs-Elysees Avenue in Paris and the central neighborhoods of several other cities including Bordeaux, Toulouse, Marseille and Nice in the south, and Rouen in western France.
The Champs-Elysees was almost empty Saturday except for a huge police presence. Scores of shops were looted and ransacked last weekend, and some were set on fire by protesters. Fear of more violence certainly kept tourists away, and police shut down the Champs-Elysees subway stations as a precaution.
Paris police detained 51 people by early afternoon, issued 29 fines and conducted 4,688 “preventive checks” on protesters entering the capital.
In Nice, police dispersed a few hundred protesters who gathered on a central plaza. The city was placed under high security measures as Chinese President Xi Jinping was expected to stay overnight on Sunday as part of his state visit to France.
The new Paris police chief, Didier Lallement, who took charge following the destruction wrought by last week’s protests, said specific police units have been created to react faster to any violence.
About 6,000 police officers were deployed in the capital on Saturday and two drones were helping to monitor the demonstrations. French authorities also deployed soldiers to protect sensitive sites, allowing police forces to focus on maintaining order during the protests.
President Emmanuel Macron on Friday dismissed criticism from opposition leaders regarding the involvement of the military, saying they are not taking over police duties.
“Those trying to scare people, or to scare themselves, are wrong,” he said in Brussels.
Christelle Camus, a yellow vest protester from a southern suburb of Paris, called using French soldiers to help ensure security “a great nonsense.”
“Since when do soldiers face a population? We are here in France. You would say that we are here in (North) Korea or in China. I never saw something like this,” she said.
Last week’s surge in violence came as support for the 4-month-old anti-government yellow vest movement has been dwindling, mostly as a reaction to the riots by some protesters.
The protests started in November to oppose fuel tax hikes but have expanded into a broader rejection of Macron’s economic policies, which protesters say favor businesses and the wealthy over ordinary French workers. Macron countered by dropping the fuel tax hike and holding months of discussions with the public on France’s stagnant wages, high taxes and high unemployment.
The yellow vest movement was named after the fluorescent garments that French motorists must carry in their vehicles for emergencies.