Opposition lawmakers want to know the source of Peña Nieto’s wealth

Mexican president filed a financial statement in January lacking full disclosures

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto.
Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto.Juan Carlos Hidalgo (EFE)

Lawmakers in Mexico voted late Tuesday to demand that President Enrique Peña Nieto and his entire Cabinet make public the sources of their personal wealth.

With a winning margin of just five votes (225 to 220), the Chamber of Deputies approved a motion presented by the two leading opposition groups, the conservative National Action Party (PAN) and the leftist Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD), asking Peña Nieto for details about his personal assets and investments, besides the origin of six properties, which he described in his public financial statement as “donations.”

In the statement filed in January, the 46-year-old Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) leader said he owned nine properties in all, including the six that were apparently given to him between 1988 and 2011. One of these is a five-hectare plot of land.

Peña Nieto has argued that he holds the right not to disclose the locations of his properties, their values or the identities of the persons who donated them. He also said in his statement that he would not disclose details of his earnings, investments or bank accounts for security reasons.

In 2009, while he served as governor of Mexico State, he married the well-known telenovela actress and model Ángelica Rivera – wealthy in her own right – who is now Mexico’s first lady.

Under Mexican law, the president doesn’t have to respond to the motion passed in the lower chamber, but the vote revives issues brought up during last year’s presidential campaign concerning his wealth since he served as governor of Mexico State from 2005 to 2011.

“These financial statements – which should actually be family trees that show the evolution of a public official’s wealth – are nothing but a sham,” said PRD deputy Carlos Reyes Gámiz, who serves as the secretary on the transparency committee. “I know of no public servant who has been prosecuted for what they have put in their financial statements.”

In an interview with EL PAÍS, PAN lawmaker Elizabeth Yáñez Robles said that Peña Nieto’s entire Cabinet decided what information should be disclosed. “For example, Energy Secretary Pedro Joaquín Coldwell said he held [more than 20] investments, but offered no details as to how much they are worth or the amount of money he invested,” she said.

Yet a search on the government website Declaranet, which details the financial statements of Mexico’s elected officials, turns up no personal statement for this year from Yáñez Robles.

Peña Nieto’s chief of staff, Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong, disclosed in his own statement that he owned four plots of land and a 12-square-meter apartment, but it isn’t listed with the property registrar’s office.

Jesús Alfonso Navarrete, the labor secretary, included the listings of nine apartments and two plots of land he owns – one of which was “a donation” – but he doesn’t include the amounts they are worth. The seven cars listed under his name - including a Jaguar he purchased in 2005 and a Mercedes E500 bought in 2011 -also lack the prices he paid for the vehicles and their current values.

Neither Osorio Chong nor Navarrete include personal items such as jewelry or art objects in their financial statements.

“Politically, President Peña Nieto made a mistake when he filed a partial financial statement,” said Mauricio Merino, a researcher at the Center for Research and Economic Studies (CIDE), one of Mexico’s main centers of teaching and research in social sciences. “It piques public curiosity to know precisely how much he has accumulated throughout his career and to compare it with the positions he has held and the earnings he can account for.”

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