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AMLO: Rich President, Poor People

AMLO, El American

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One of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s (AMLO) favorite battle tools is to accuse others of being richer than he is. His Franciscan father attitude goes back to the time when he was head of government and liked to boast that he didn’t drive around in luxury cars, but in a white Tsuru. I don’t know if it was intentional or simply because of bad taste, he wore (and still wears) ill-fitting suits in colors that don’t look good on camera.

His appearance contrasts with the stereotypical image of small-town PRIism, that ostentatious look that has always accompanied the so-called “nouveau riche,” but sudden wealth is not possible through conventional economical means. Whoever gets rich by working does not get rich overnight, it is the politician or his cronies for whom this ascent is possible, I guess that is where the relationship of this image of such unpleasant people comes from.

This is how López Obrador got his outsider identity, even though he has belonged to the political class for 50 years. Brown suit, Tsuru, apartment in a middle-class neighborhood in the south of Mexico City, etc. He is like you and me… except he is not at all.

Poor father, rich children

The president’s children and wife have no public image of austerity to maintain. They, like any nouveau riche, have to show that they have, like an aunt of mine who said she had to dress her children in designer clothes because otherwise, no one would believe they were rich.

AMLO criticizes that his opponents have their children in private schools, but his son Jesus Ernesto spends the summer at Camp Santa Ursula, Andres Jr. walks around with $800+ tennis shoes, Gonzalo appears in private boxes at baseball stadiums. Let’s be frank, these are not out of the ordinary for people with his income, but they contrast with the image the president wants to show about himself and his family.

On January 27, 2022, Mexican journalist Carlos Loret de Mola released a report showing a house on the outskirts of Houston, Texas, where José Ramón López Beltrán, the president’s eldest son, and his wife Carolyn Adams live. Both the price and the level of luxury of the property correspond to the upper-middle class, nothing surprising, but enough to lift the veil of presidential austerity.

Sound and fury

In his morning conference on February 11, 2022, the president launched himself against Loret and, in an act as illegal as it was shameful, showed a table in which he revealed the origins and amounts of the journalist’s income, comparing them with his own. The figures, which according to Loret de Mola himself are inflated, reveal more about López Obrador than about the journalist, but the president was too angry to realize that the blow was dealt with himself.

“(…) (Loret earns in total) 35 million 200 thousand (around 1.7 million dollars annually)… But look how much I earn, annual gross two million 11 thousand (around 100 thousand dollars annually)… he earns about 15 times more than me,” explained the president at the press conference. Masks off, the president admits that austerity is, in Macbeth’s words, a “tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

Rich president, poor people

If we take for certain the income declared by the president, which does not count the 300 thousand dollars a month that it is worth for him to live in the National Palace, according to the National Survey of Household Income 2020, AMLO is among the 10% of the population with the highest income in Mexico. But not only that, his quarterly income (502 thousand Mexican pesos) triples the average earned by the 10% of households with the highest income (163 thousand Mexican pesos). In addition, it doubles the monthly income that the National Institute of Geography and Statistics requires considering a household “upper class” and is 20 times higher than the average income of a person in his age group (over 60 years old). The president is, as we say in Mexico, “forrado.”

Of course, AMLO’s high income does not explain how his eldest son, without working, can live comfortably, with a house of his own, in Houston.

On Twitter, #AMLOtienemiedo was trending, and there are reasons for him to be afraid. In 50 years of a political career, AMLO’s highest moments came when he manages to be the victim and his greatest failures when his lies come to light.

José Torra is an economist, Research Coordinator at Caminos de la Libertad, co-author of the Fraser Institute's Economic Freedom of North America Index, and co-host of the podcast Libertad Aquí y Ahora // José Torra es economista, Coordinador de investigación en Caminos de la Libertad, coautor del índice Economic Freedom of Northamerica del Fraser Institute, y co-conductor del podcast Libertad Aquí y Ahora

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