Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador’s son stuck in rental allegations


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Mexican President Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador tried to divert people’s attention from his son’s problems.

Associated press

Mexican President Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador’s popularity has yet to drop, despite his government’s poor record on almost all fronts. But I wouldn’t be surprised if his polls plummet following the latest corruption allegations involving his own family.

Lopez Obrador’s 40-year-old son, José Ramón Lopez Obrador, is at the center of a scandal exposed by Mexicans Against Corruption and Impunity (MCCI), an independent advocacy group, and the news site Latinus.us. The allegations raise questions about the president’s frequent claims that he has rooted out corruption.

According to the investigation, a former senior executive at Texas-based oil services company Baker Hughes rented his nearly $1 million Houston home to Lopez Obrador’s son from August 2019 to January 2020. During Meanwhile, Baker Hughes has significantly increased his contracts with Mexico. Pemex’s state-owned oil monopoly, the MCCI report says.

Lopez Obrador vehemently denies any wrongdoing on his part or that of his son, but he has yet to dispute the essential facts of the report.

Instead, the president tried to divert public attention by threatening to sever diplomatic ties with Spain over vague accusations of business exploits dating back to colonial times. He also uses his daily morning press conferences to accuse the report’s authors and other prominent journalists of being allegedly unpatriotic and serving foreign interests – the oldest trick in the populists’ book.

Under normal circumstances, I would not expect any possible consequences from these new allegations, as Mexican governments rarely investigate their own officials. A recent corruption perception ranking by Transparency International, ranging from most honest to most corrupt, places Mexico 124th out of 180 countries.

But these may not be normal circumstances, because there is a US company involved, and US officials may be curious about the case, legal experts tell me.

Gilbert K. Squires, a U.S. international lawyer and former oil and gas executive, told me that under U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Law, “it’s likely that this could lead to a investigation by the Department of Justice or the Securities and Exchange Commission, or both.”

The former Baker Hughes executive’s house is said to have been rented to the president’s niece, an oil consultant. The former US company executive was quoted by Bloomberg as saying he was unaware he was renting his property to Lopez Obrador’s son.

MCCI researchers tell me that the details of José Ramón Lopez Obrador’s rental agreement are unclear because they cannot access the documents. The house was reportedly rented for $6,187 a month, more than the Mexican president’s take-home monthly salary, according to the MCCI report.

When asked if any U.S. laws had been broken, Joe DeMaria, a defense attorney and former U.S. prosecutor who specializes in corruption cases, told me, “There’s nothing wrong with doing business with family members of foreign officials, as long as they act normally. commercial transactions at fair market value. If not, the former US executive at Baker Hughes has a problem.

Whatever happens next, things don’t go well for the president or for Mexico.

Its economy has slipped into a technical recession, after falling for two consecutive months at the end of 2021. It is expected to grow a meager 2.5% this year, well below the 4% annual rate promised by Lopez Obrador at the start of his term. mandate.

Capital flight reached a record $12.6 billion in 2021, according to official figures. Inflation rose to 7.3% last year, the highest in two decades.

Lopez Obrador’s approval rating had already fallen to 60% before the latest corruption allegations, from a peak of around 81% at the start of his term, according to a new poll by the daily El Financiero. It is not uncommon for Mexican presidents to have approval ratings between 50% and 60% at this point in their terms of office.

But now, if the latest allegations prove dodgy government deals, Lopez Obrador’s numbers could drop even further. His 2018 election campaign platform was based on his promises to end chronic corruption in the Mexican government, restore economic growth and dramatically reduce violence.

His three main vows are now in question – or have been broken.

Don’t miss the “Oppenheimer Presenta” TV show Sundays at 7 p.m. ET on CNN en Español. Twitter: @oppenheimera; Blog: www.andresoppenheimer.com

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Oppenheimer

This story was originally published February 11, 2022 7:20 p.m.

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