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)


Trump-Xi meeting at G20 raises hope for trade truce

Updated 55 min 52 sec ago
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Trump-Xi meeting at G20 raises hope for trade truce

  • Chinese president said the problems between US and China won’t benefit either sides
  • US and China raised tariffs on some of each other’s goods and companies

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump and Chinese leader Xi Jinping have agreed to meet at the G20 summit in Japan next week, raising hopes for a truce in the bruising trade war between the world’s top two economies.
The two leaders spoke on the phone on Tuesday, weeks after negotiations broke down when Trump accused Beijing of reneging on its commitments, hiked tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese goods and then blacklisted Chinese telecom giant Huawei.
The US president took a conciliatory approach this time.
“Had a very good telephone conversation with President Xi of China. We will be having an extended meeting next week at the G-20 in Japan,” Trump said on Twitter.
“Our respective teams will begin talks prior to our meeting,” he said ahead of the June 28-29 summit.
Xi noted that bilateral relations had encountered difficulties that were “not in the interest of either side” but he warned that dialogue must be conducted on “an equal footing.”
“China and the US will both gain by cooperating and lose by fighting,” Xi told Trump, according to state media.
Global shares were buoyed by the announcement, with Wall Street rallying on Tuesday and Asian stock markets surging on Wednesday.
The White House readout of the call said the leaders “discussed the importance of leveling the playing field for US farmers, workers, and businesses through a fair and reciprocal economic relationship.”
“I think we have a chance. China wants a deal. They don’t like the tariffs,” Trump told reporters at the White House. “I have a very good relationship with president Xi. We’ll see what happens.”
The White House repeated that the focus of the talks will be to address “structural barriers to trade with China and achieving meaningful reforms that are enforceable and verifiable.”
The United States and China seemed close to an agreement when talks collapsed last month.
Beijing retaliated to Trump’s tariffs and moves against Huawei by increasing custom taxes on $60 billion in US goods, creating its own list of “unreliable” companies and individuals and threatening to ban exports of rare earths to the United States.
Xi told Trump that the two countries must “accommodate each other’s legitimate concerns” and that “China hopes the US side can treat Chinese firms in a fair manner,” according to the official Xinhua news agency.
Trump had requested the call between the two leaders, according to Xinhua.
A week before the G20, Xi will visit North Korea on Thursday and Friday, his first trip there as president.
China is North Korea’s sole major ally, and analysts say Xi could use any leverage Beijing may have in the nuclear standoff between Washington and Pyongyang as a “bargaining chip” in his talks with Trump.
Trump economic adviser Larry Kudlow warned that there are “no guarantees” of any resolution in Osaka, Japan.
“Our position continues to be (that) we want structural changes,” Kudlow told reporters.
“They’ll have a good conversation. The fact that they’re meeting is a good thing.”
In an editorial, the state-run China Daily said Communist Party decision-makers, like White House counter-parts, “want to evade a full-blown trade war.”
“Since neither side appears ready to really slam the door shut on further negotiations, they should refrain from escalating tensions, and engage each other in a more constructive manner,” the daily said.
Global markets are concerned about Trump’s threat to impose more steep tariffs on an additional $300 billion in Chinese imports, which could hurt the already slowing Chinese economy and spread the gloom worldwide.
Trump last week threatened to “immediately” jack up tariffs should Xi fail to show up at the meeting. The United States already has 25 percent duties on more than $250 billion of imports from China.