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Internal scandal dents AMLO’s popularity and sharpens hostilities against media

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Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador delivers a press conference at the National Palace in Mexico City on June 7, 2021. File photo: Alfredo Estrella via Getty

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s approval rating has dropped to the lowest score yet after a scandal involving his eldest son, according to a poll by El Financiero. 

AMLO saw his approval fall six points between January and February to 54% as his pro-austerity administration was rocked by the revelation that his son was renting a lavish house in Houston owned by an oil executive of a company that got contracts from Mexico’s state-owned oil company, Pemex. His disapproval rating climbed to 43% from 38% a month earlier, according to the poll published Tuesday.

The nonprofit Mexicans Against Corruption and news outlet Latinus reported that José Ramón López Beltrán, 40, has lived in two Texas homes each worth nearly $1 million. The situation appears to contradict the president’s austerity pledge. 

Asked about the revelation, 46% of respondents in El Financiero’s poll said the case is a potential conflict of interest. Half thought the situation had damaged the president’s image. Only a third thought he had done the right thing by retaliating against Mérida-born journalist Carlos Loret de Mola, who uncovered his son’s affairs, by reporting his alleged high salary.

López Obrador has also demanded information on the incomes of several prominent journalists, including Univision’s Jorge Ramos, calling them “mercenaries” and “sellouts.”

Mexican law only requires government employees to report their salaries and property, but López Obrador said journalists should be forced to as well. “Their income has to do with the budget, public property and politics,” he said.

The Inter American Press Association has called on López Obrador to halt the series of verbal attacks on Mexican journalist Carlos Loret de Mola, who reported that López Obrador’s adult son had lived in a luxury home in Houston, Texas, owned by an executive of a company that got contracts from Mexico’s state-owned oil company.

The president has referred to questions on that issue to his son, who he claims has no role in the government. But instead of directly addressing the issue, López Obrador published a chart showing how much Loret allegedly earns.

The president had said he gets the information — which Loret de Mola says is wrong — “from the people,” but on Wednesday he said he based the chart in part on tax receipts, which would have been available only to the party who wrote them or the government tax agency.

The president on Wednesday expanded his attacks to include journalists Carmen Aristegui and Ramos.

The Inter-American Press Association said the president’s attacks are harmful amid an unprecedented upswing in the killings of journalists in Mexico. Five reporters or photographers have been murdered in the space of a month.

The IAPA called on the president to “immediately suspend the aggressions and insults because such attacks from the top of power encourage violence against the press.”

López Obrador has had an adversarial relationship with the press and largely limits questions at his daily news briefing to sympathetic social media sites.

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