Is there a rift between Mexico’s president and first lady?

Rumors fly after videos capture awkward moments between Peña Nieto and his wife

President Enrique Peña Nieto and his wife, first lady Angélica Rivera.
President Enrique Peña Nieto and his wife, first lady Angélica Rivera.IAN LANGSDON (EFE)

Over the past few weeks, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and his wife Angélica Rivera have found themselves the subject of public speculation concerning their marriage after a series of recent videos appear to show the couple acting chilly towards one another.

During the couple’s recent official visit to Paris, cameras caught several moments where Peña Nieto and his wife appeared aloof and distant from each other. The president and the first lady seemed uncoordinated, a bit cold, and did not display the usual warmth and friendliness that Mexicans are known for around the globe.

They are in difficult situations, tense moments in which they have to comply with protocols while showing some type of cordiality and informality with other people”

Sara Sefchovich, sociologist

Even though the images could be misleading, they have sparked conjecture in the Mexican press that there could be trouble at Los Pinos presidential palace. And while the rumors of an imminent breakup are unfounded, the videos continue to evoke controversy.

At the July 14 military parade held on the Champs-Élysées in Paris, Peña Nieto and Rivera stopped briefly to greet President François Hollande. Afterwards, the Mexican president and his wife proceeded to take their seats to watch the parade.

As they walked along, Rivera reached for her husband’s arm but Peña Nieto gently moved back, preventing her from holding him.

Judging by the gesture, some observers in Mexico believe that their relationship may be on the rocks.

In another video taken that same day, Rivera can be seen refusing to grab her husband’s arm as they go walking down the famous Parisian avenue.

Yet a third video taken from another viewpoint does not capture any moments to suggest that the president and his wife were being discourteous to one another.

The recordings are short, making it difficult to put the couple’s behavior at the Bastille Day celebrations into context.

“There is no basis to the president's alleged rejection of his wife, Angélica,” said Sara Sefchovich, a sociologist who has studied the figure of the first lady in Mexico, in an interview with Quien magazine. “They are in difficult situations, tense moments in which they have to comply with protocols while at the same time showing some type of cordiality and informality with other people. For that reason, things can occur that are not intentional, or even less so ill-intentioned.” 

A similar situation unfolded during the royal visit to Mexico City by King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia in late June.

Peña Nieto and his wife accompanied the royal couple to the Museo del Virreinato (Museum of the Viceroyalty of New Spain) in Zacatecas state. Rivera appeared to glare at her husband after Peña Nieto forgot to extend his arm to her as they were walking side by side.

The video, which was released by the Mexican president’s office, went viral in the social networks in a matter of hours.

More information
First results point to victory for PRI and its allies in Mexican midterms
Mexico’s First Lady to sell her controversial luxury home

Peña Nieto and Rivera were married in November 2010 after they met while she was working on a promotional campaign for Mexico state, where he served as governor.

Rivera was a popular television soap opera actress throughout Latin America, and is still widely referred to as La Gaviota after the name of the character she portrayed in the 2007 series Destilando Amor (Distilling love).

Following their wedding, the couple began campaigning for the presidential election, which Peña Nieto won in December 2012.

English version by Martin Delfin.

Recomendaciones EL PAÍS
Recomendaciones EL PAÍS