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The American expats breaking up indigenous communities on the Mexican ‘Riviera’

As property developers edge closer to the home town of 5,000 Cocas, the community has appealed to the government for help

Machetes in hand, the indigenous Cocas are climbing the steep scrubby hills that overlook their territory. Young boys climb alongside elders while a trusty donkey carries their camping equipment. Other groups man outposts beside the entrances to Mezcala, the lakeside town their forefathers founded in the late 13th century, over 200 years before the Spanish arrived in Mexico.

Theyre heading out on a unique voyage – bringing the community together to discuss their tactics against displacement.The men and boys will spend the night huddled around ceremonial bonfires, telling stories about their heritage, before descending upon the sacred Isle of Mezcala the next morning to discuss with a larger group how to defend their land and way of life. Based in the western state of Jalisco, the Cocas go back more than 700 years and have had to fight off waves of invaders over the centuries.

The latest threat to their land? A wave of American retirees heading south – pretty ironic, given President Donald Trumps demonisation of Mexican immigrants. Thousands of American and Canadian retirees have settled in the neighbouring towns on Chapala and Ajijic in recent decades to take advantage of the cheap living costs, year-round sunshine and stunning views of Mexicos biggest lake.

Manuel
Weve always had invasions by people who want to take control of our land, says Manuel Jacobo, a 30-year-old Coca activist Photograph: Duncan Tucker for the Guardian

Now known as the Chapala Riviera, the area is brimming with boutique hotels and gated communities. Foreigners are driving the growth, having spent more than twice as much as locals on housing and tourism in 2015. An estimated 7,000 expats live there all year round, with up to 10,000 snowbirds joining them each winter. Expat community leaders say their population could double within five years.

Property developers have long coveted nearby Mezcala, the home of 5,000 Coca people. With poorly paved roads and crumbling houses, it is noticeably less developed than Chapala and Ajijic. But after witnessing what happened to the original residents of those towns, the Cocas have reason to fear outsider-led development.

Santiago Bastos, an anthropologist who has spent eight years studying Mezcala, notes that (pdf) the arrival of foreign retirees and wealthy Mexicans from nearby Guadalajara saw indigenous residents ousted, often illegally, from prime plots of land, while prices shot up, making the lakeside area unaffordable for many locals.

Senior
Senior citizens have flocked to Ajijic, attracted by great weather, cheap real estate and the quaint cobblestone streets of the town. Photograph: MCT/MCT via Getty Images

Weve always had invasions by people who want to take control of our land, says Manuel Jacobo, a 30-year-old activist with a punk-inspired appearance. We inherited it from our forefathers who fought and gave their lives for it. Our grandfathers used to tell us the myths and legends. We dont want future generations to lose [the land].

Were not against progress, adds Vicente Paredes, a Coca spokesperson. But if theres urbanisation then let it be carried out by our community, not outsiders. Weve seen the problems that happened in Chapala and Ajijic, where the original inhabitants have been forced to move into the hills and live as third-class citizens.

There have already been some unwelcome attempts to develop Mezcalas 3,602 hectares (8,900 acres) of communal land, which were not only formally recognised as belonging to the Coca people under a 1971 presidential decree but also in viceregal deeds dating back to 1539.

Since 1999, the Cocas have been locked in a series of legal disputes, still unresolved, with Guillermo Moreno Ibarra, a wealthy local businessman who built a hillside mansion on 10 hectares (25 acres) of their land. The townspeople claim Moreno seized the land illegally, diverted a local stream, sent armed men to intimidate them, and falsely accused several locals of property damage.

Moreno, whose family owns a mining firm and has shares in exclusive housing developments along the Riviera, denies the accusations. His lawyer, Jos Soto, says he built the property in partnership with a local resident in a sustainable manner that doesnt affect the community in any way. The locals are upset, Soto says, because theyve never wanted socioeconomic development.

This is not true, the Cocas say. They want to see investment in health, education and communications infrastructure. Mezcala has an infinite number of needs, Paredes affirms, describing how theyd like funding for programmes to combat poverty and marginalisation. Mezcala residents have also had to begin patrolling their territory to defend their forests and water from illegal logging or pollution.

Mezcala
The town of Mezcala is home to 5,000 Coca people. Photograph: Duncan Tucker for the Guardian

They need government support on these issues, though, and that remains lacking. The Cocas, according to their state government, dont meet the criteria for indigenous people as they have no traditional dress or dialect. And without this formal recognition, Mezcalas residents are ineligible for additional funding that could give them greater control of their destiny.

Theyve been trying to gain recognition from the state for some time in order to gain access to the funds assigned to indigenous communities, notes Fela Pelayo, the head of Jaliscos congressional committee for indigenous affairs.

But even formally recognised indigenous groups have little control over the administration of public funds in their communities, as local governments rarely consult them before deciding what the money is spent on. As a result of structural, systematic and historic discrimination, the National Council Against Discrimination found that Mexicos 15.7 million indigenous people have substandard access to health and education and suffer unjustifiable levels of poverty and marginalisation.

The Mexican government is trying to make changes. The current administration says it has invested a record 21.5bn pesos (917m) in infrastructure for indigenous peoples, issued 8,000 birth certificates to unregistered indigenous children, and provided legal support for 4,100 indigenous people who were found to have been wrongly imprisoned.

There is still a way to go though. Last August, Pelayo proposed changes to state law to give Jaliscos indigenous groups greater control over the use of public funds for development projects in their communities – but it was blocked in February.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2017/apr/04/the-american-expats-moving-into-the-mexican-riviera-and-breaking-up-indigenous-communities


‘Fear and threats’: Mexico hits back after Trump pressures automakers

Mexican government categorically rejects attempts to scare off investors but effects seem clear as future Ford plant and job hopes are left an empty shell

Mexico has hit back in the verbal trade war with Donald Trump, hitting out at the use of fear or threats to deter companies from investing in the country.

The US president-elect has threatened to slap import tariffs on US automaker General Motors for importing cars it makes in Mexico and Japans Toyota for planning a new factory there.

Ford also announced that it was cancelling a $1.6bn new factory in the northern state of San Luis Potosi that had been criticised by Trump, though the company said the decision was business-related.

Without mentioning Trump or any government, Mexicos economy ministry nonetheless said in a statement that it categorically rejects any attempt to influence the investment decisions of companies on the basis of fear or threats.

Trump has vowed to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta) with Mexico and Canada as well as impose tariffs on companies that ship jobs out of the United States.

The investments that are made in Mexico, the United States and Canada benefit the three countries thanks to the integration of our chains of production, the economy ministry said. This, the statement said, did not cause the loss of jobs for any of the participating countries.

Fords abrupt move to scrap its $1.6bn plant in San Luis Potosi has sent shockwaves through the factorys likely network of suppliers. Many of them had already started to expand in anticipation, in a state where industry is easily 70% dependent on the auto sector, according go Julian Eaves, managing director of Preferred Compounding de Mexico, a US-owned maker of rubber compounds operating in central Mexico .

Its going to have a huge impact on the local community, said Eaves, calculating the loss to the economy could run into the hundreds of millions or billions of over the next five years, as manufacturing, contracting and indirect jobs all fall short of plans.

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Billboard welcoming Ford at the San Luis Potosi industrial park. Photograph: Reuters

In a matter of days, Fords retreat has turned the factory site into a barren plain bereft of its economic promise. It now looks like a cemetery, said Fernando Rosales, 28, a hydraulic hoses contractor preparing to abandon the site. [There is] only death here, we are all leaving.

Fords decision also puts the brakes on Detroit automakers push to build small cars in Mexico to reduce labour costs while using higher-paid US workers for larger, more expensive vehicles.

Not far from the doomed Ford site, other major players from the global automotive industry are in the midst of multi-million dollar investments, including General Motors Co, which Trump has also repeatedly berated for investing in Mexico.

German carmaker BMW is assembling a $1bn plant, and a few miles from the Ford site Goodyear is busy building a $550m tyre factor.

The US president-elects broadsides against Mexico have shown how exposed companies in the supply chain are to the whims of US automakers under pressure not to offshore production.

Shares in Kansas City Southern, one of the main railroad operators in Mexico, fell following news of the Ford cancellation and have lost 3.3% since Tuesday morning.

Between 40 and 50,mostly foreign-owned suppliers had been ready to come and supply the San Luis Potosi plant, said Sergio Resendez of real estate broker Colliers International.

This was going to catapult us, Gustavo Puente, the state economy minister of San Luis Potosi, said of the plant Ford originally announced in April of last year. Ford told him the plan was off about an hour before it went public with the news, he said.

Around 12 to 14 of the suppliers had already invested money buying land or signed a contract with developers, said Resendez of Colliers, though Puente suggested the number was fewer.

Its a very, very complicated hole, Resendez said. The suppliers, depending on their level of advancement, will lose money. They had already made big investments.
At the Ford premises shocked and dejected workers packed up construction materials and prepared to leave. This is a massive kick in the teeth, said Rosalio Rocha, 52, a construction worker on the site from a nearby town.

It looks like he is going to keep going on about it, he added, referring to Trump.
Some of the ground at the 280-hectare site had already been levelled and the skeletons of two large white buildings stood out against a rusty brown and green backdrop.

Workers said they had heard plans for an industrial park opposite the site for suppliers had also been suspended. The parks developers were not immediately available to comment.

The auto sector is at the heart of a Mexican industrial boom since the 1994 Nafta agreement.

It hurts because were partners in trade, culture, sports, were partners in everything, said Puente, the San Luis Potosi economy minister. It hurts because [Trump] is pushing a policy that wants to break those ties.

With Reuters and Agence France-Presse

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jan/07/fear-and-threats-mexico-hits-back-over-trumps-bullying-of-automakers


Mexicans on Trump’s election: ‘The power he has over us is terrifying’

We hear how the US president-elect is viewed on both sides of the border where he has promised to build a wall

President-elect Donald Trump has promised to build a wall along the border between the US and Mexico. After his electoral triumph over Hillary Clinton, many are wondering whether hell actually pull this off, or any of his other controversial pledges.

Mexicans, along with many other minorities in the US, were railed against by Trump during his campaign. In the run-up to the election, he vowed to rid the US of bad hombres. Yet despite this adding to his record of xenophobic language, Trump was elected the 45th president of the United States.

The real estate billionaire promised to scrap the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta) on grounds that it favoured Mexico at the expense of US workers. He has also threatened to tax the money sent home from the US by Mexican migrants to pay, in part, for the aforementioned wall.

We spoke to Mexicans in the US and Mexico about the election of Trump, and how they think his presidency might affect their lives. Heres what they said.

Americans underestimate the consequences that damaging our economic ties can have on them

I feel shocked, saddened, dismayed and deeply disappointed. As bad as that sounds, the worst part is feeling powerless. We dont have a say in an event that can have catastrophic consequences to our economy. In the US we are seen as collateral damage. Even those opposing Trump seem indifferent to the economic and human pain this situation can inflict on us.

I understand the economic pain that people in the rust belt are feeling. Successful trade agreements transfer some jobs from one country to another but are net job creators to all involved countries. Under Nafta, the US gained jobs in the south at the expense of the rust belt. Similarly, Mexicos north gained and the south has suffered, but this is the result of failed compensating measures within both countries. Nafta boosted wealth across the subcontinent. Cutting ties with Mexico will also harm the US. It surprises me that during the campaign no one pointed this out and Americans perceive that trade is a zero-sum game.

If, as president, Trump adopts a pragmatic stance, the damage can be limited to a further decline in my purchasing power owing to the peso devaluation and a difficult business environment while expectations are better anchored. If he feels obligated to deliver on the promises made to his voters and revokes Nafta, things could be much worse.

Our government has little leverage because Americans underestimate the consequences that damaging our economic ties can have on them. They are self absorbed and busy inflicting pain on one another.

Enrique, 53, Mexico City

Deportations of Mexicans … will probably send us into an even deeper recession

The power Trump has over us, over our economy, over our geography, our perception of our freedom of movement, over the way the world will see us is terrifying and he is not even the president yet.

Today we woke up to find the exchange rate at 20.50 pesos for the dollar. We went from 18.70 per dollar on election day, to 20.20 yesterday and 20.50 today. Its expected to reach 30 by the end of the year. We have been humiliated in front of the world.

The deportations of many Mexicans, who live and work in the United States, who send money home and who contribute tremendously in that way to our economy will probably send us into an even deeper recession.

We are more than willing to welcome in any American who wishes to make Mexico their home for the next four years, bring your families, come live here, bring your dollars, help us out. We are a friendly, welcoming country with amazing weather, fantastic food, great cities with interesting museums and landmarks and restaurants and cafes. We hope they will seriously consider it. That goes for British people who want to escape the post-Brexit UK.

In our collective imagination, the American democracy was something to aspire to. The spell has been broken in many ways. In Mexico, even the least educated among us believe this man to be a buffoon. His ideas are uninspired and poorly expressed, that his misogyny is worse than any machismo we have ever seen. We are surprised by how much and how many Americans love him, adore him.

We are now wondering where to turn to for inspiration and what way of life and ideology will now inspire us.

Is this America? we ask ourselves.

Flor, Mexico City

He has created a dangerous stereotype of Latinos in the US

I have a visa and I can travel throughout the US whenever I want, which is a lot. But I am concerned of the increase of hate or that as a result of the stereotype. I live in Cancn, a place visited by a lot of American tourists. I worry that they will think that I am undocumented, or that they think I am a drug dealer or a rapist.

It is not fair that a presidential candidate has blamed Mexico because of issues they have. He has created a dangerous stereotype of Latinos in the US. Yes, there are a lot of undocumented migrants, but a lot of us are living legally in the US.

Many drugs go the US through the Mexico border, but what they forget is the US is the first drug consumer worldwide. What they dont say is that they are in part responsible for the drug cartel violence in some areas.

In Mexico we make jokes about it. We now say that we are no longer the country with the stupidest president in the world.

Milton, Cancn

The silver lining is that Mexico perceives Trump as a common enemy

Factional politics in Mexico can find common ground to make front to his politics and maybe force the common efforts by different parties before the 2018 Mexican presidential election. I really hope Margarita Zavala will engage in alliances with other parties to win the presidency.

Mexico will suffer irremediably if Trump imposes tariffs on imports renegotiating Nafta for example or tax the remittances. The fiscal situation in Mexico is already strained owing to low oil prices and corrupt politicians with vast regions of the country in hands of narcos or organised crime. Trump adds chaos to the already dismal state of government with inept and corrupt politicians like President Enrique Pea Nieto and the foreign secretary, Claudia Ruiz Massieu.

Prices are going to soar, inflation and currency devaluation will spike making day-to-day expenses more difficult. Recession is already showing its claws and jobs cuts are on the rise in major banks as we speak.

The silver lining is that Mexico perceives Trump as a common enemy.

Federico, Mexico City

Hillary Clinton ended up being popular in the wrong country

At first it was a feeling of disbelief, then it was a surprise we did not stop laughing with all the irony. In Mexico those fear campaigns of the media work very well, its surprising that they wouldnt work at all in the US. All that money spent to promote Clinton and his hate campaign would have been used for something useful. Hillary Clinton ended up being popular in the wrong country.

Many things could change in Mexico. If Trump complies with the construction of his wall, good things could happen in Mexico. The reactivation of the local economy destroyed by Nafta, the reactivation of small businesses currently neutralised by big foreign corporations.

If the wall is also for the Mexican oligarchy, it could fall from power and give way to a leftwing government that Mexico needs so badly. The fall of the government without the support of Washingtons neoliberals would be wonderful.

I hope that Trump will comply in the destruction of Nafta and keep away US corporations and mining companies that have damaged our country so badly.

After that, I hope that he fulfils a good relationship with Mexico without interventionism or imperialism: simply keep away and in peace.

Chio, Mexico City

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/nov/13/mexicans-on-trumps-election-the-power-he-has-over-us-is-terrifying


Big Pink: Mexican architects imagine Trump’s wall as Luis Barragn homage

The Estudio 314 architectural practice has unveiled its pastel pink plans to realize the Republican candidates border proposal in all its gorgeous perversity

As an architectural brief it is pretty straightforward. The real estate developer turned Republican candidate Donald Trumps southern border wall will be, in the presidential hopefuls own words great, impenetrable, physical, tall, powerful, beautiful, and may perhaps also feature a big, beautiful door.

In the more measured terms of the Republican partys documents, the structure will cover the entirety of the southern border and must be sufficient to stop both vehicular and pedestrian traffic.

Trump has also declared that construction will begin on day one of his term in office, and that Mexico will pay for the thing. So, surely, engaging an architectural practice south of the border to oversee the project would be politic?

Thats the thinking behind the Mexican architectural practice Estudio 314s proposal, which offers a distinctly Latin take on the Republican wall. A team of seven interns working under 314s creative director, Leonardo Daz Borioli, reimagined the border proposal in the spirit of the great 20th-century Mexican architect Luis Barragn.

Barragn, who won the Pritzker prize in 1980 and died in 1988 at the age of 86, was known for combining simple, modernist designs with lyrical, spiritual flourishes, employing bright pinks, as well as other startling pastel shades, in his otherwise restrained works.

Estudio 314s rendering adopts a Barragn colour scheme with an equally faithful lack of ornament, though the studio has a little fun with other features in this imaginative, uncommissioned proposal. This wall also encloses a prison where 11 million undocumented people will be processed, classified, indoctrinated, and/or deported, the studio explains, making reference to Trumps immigration plans.

Interior
Interior view of the house and studio of the Mexican architect Luis Barragn. Photograph: HO/AFP/Getty Images

At other points, the wall could also accommodate a shopping mall, or even an observation terrace, where would-be migrants might look upon, but not touch, the Land of the Free.

Of course the architectural practice, which is based in Barragns birthplace of Guadalajara, does not sincerely believe its pink wall will break ground anytime soon. Instead, 314, which is more used to working on hospitality and public-park commissions, hopes its proposal will allow the public to imagine the policy proposal in all of its gorgeous perversity.

Because the wall has to be beautiful, it has been inspired by Luis Barragns pink walls that are emblematic of Mexico, says 314, adding: It also takes advantage of the tradition in architecture of megalomaniac wall building.

Well, quite. And while Barragn may have approved of the pigmentation and the clean lines, theres very little else likely to endear the scheme to the late Pritzker laureate, including the flamboyantly haired client north of the border and his swingeing terms of payment.

As the architecture critic Jonathan Glancey put it in a 2001 article, Barragn was a generous man. When he was asked to rebuild and extend a convent in Tlalpan not far from his own home, he paid for the extra work needed to give the resident nuns a special design far and above what they had expected. The result was a sensual, spiritual place influenced by the Court of the Myrtles at the Alhambra.

It seems unlikely that, in years to come, anyone will be choosing similar words to describe this wall or its chief commissioner, no matter what the colour.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2016/nov/05/mexican-architects-imagine-trump-wall-luis-barragan-homage


Pea Nieto’s making a dangerous gamble with Trump’s Mexico visit | Daniel Pea

The beleaguered Mexican president, battered by one scandal after another, hopes that the meeting might boost his approval ratings. But will it backfire?

Outside of their respective hairstyles, questionable real estate dealings and plagiarism scandals, President Enrique Pea Nieto and Donald Trump dont seem to have much in common. So why then would Pea Nieto seemingly out of the blue invite Trump to Los Pinos? At first glance, the timing of it might seem strange. Except its not at all.

Trump memorably launched his campaign in 2015 by comparing Mexicans to rapists and criminals. He later promised to erect a border wall (which Pea Nieto has publicly refused to build) while also pledging to deport 11 million undocumented people living in the United States. Pea Nieto, on the other hand, has gone so far as to liken Trump to Hitler and Mussolini for that kind of rhetoric.

And yet, those spats arent getting in the way of a meeting. Its reported that neither the US embassy in Mexico nor the Mexican government were given advance warning about the visit. And though Pea Nieto did extend invitations to both Hillary Clinton and Trump to meet with him in Mexico City, its easy to see that both Pea Nieto and Trump have something to gain from this particularly timely visit.

Trump stands to bolster his ever-loosening grip on his campaigns trademark issue, immigration, ahead of his big speech in Arizona on Wednesday. Pea Nieto, meanwhile, stands to salvage his waning poll numbers now hovering around 23% according to one recent survey by looking like he is standing up to Trump. The visit is also a timely distraction from embarrassing reports, which have dominated recent headlines, that he plagiarized his law degree thesis.

This weeks bad press, which includes the sacking of Mexicos police commissioner following allegations of cartel executions, follows months of looming scandals plaguing his own administration. These include large teacher strikes, allegations of the use of torture on ordinary citizens and most recently reports that the Mexican first ladys home is owned by a potential government contractor. All of the above have sent Mexican confidence in its president plunging.

The embarrassing thing is that we can actually see Pea Nietos logic at work in real time as this disaster unfolds. The president thinks that he will see the bad man, appear stern to the bad man, tell everyone that he was indeed stern to the bad man and then his poll numbers will rise. Easy. Theres only one problem with this plan. Trump may well hijack that narrative, frame the meeting to his advantage and then straight-up lie about the details in Arizona with a straight face.

Pea Nieto, with his credibility already weakened internationally, would be easy prey. His name is almost synonymous with the brand of poor Mexican governance that Trump rails against in his anti-immigrant tirades all over the country. And even if Pea Nieto does a good job in standing tall to Trumps xenophobic, anti-Nafta, pro-wall rhetoric, the president risks everything should the Republican candidate choose to exploit his numerous political weaknesses. That would not just be damaging to him, but to Mexicos international reputation at large.

Thats why many fear this gamble can only go well for Trump. And if this meeting teaches us anything its that Pea Nieto is willing to risk Mexican ire and possible geopolitical consequences if only to save his own political career.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/aug/31/pena-nieto-mexico-visit-trump-approval-ratings-backfire


Mexican president’s family faces calls for investigation into Miami apartment

Oppositions parties and Mexican media alleged cronyism after Guardian report revealed property arrangement between Pea Nietos wife and Ricardo Pierdant

Political and civil society leaders in Mexico are calling for an investigation into the first familys use of a luxury apartment in Miami, which has raised the spectre of a fresh conflict-of-interest scandal.

Opposition parties demanded that authorities investigate the property arrangement between a Miami-based Mexican businessman and Anglica Rivera, the wife of President Enrique Pea Nieto.

Mexican newspapers and social media have led an outcry, alleging cronyism, since the Guardian reported the arrangement on Tuesday.

The revelation has prompted fresh scrutiny of the embattled presidents ethics following an earlier scandal over his familys purchase of a Mexico City mansion, known as the Casa Blanca, from a government contractor.

Suspicion in the latest case focuses on why the businessman, Ricardo Pierdant, let the first lady use the $2.05m Miami apartment and also why one of his companies paid close to $30,000 in property taxes on her behalf for a neighbouring apartment which she owns.

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The two main opposition parties have asked for an investigation into the Miami apartments, which are in Ocean Tower One in Key Biscayne. Photograph: Handout

Pierdant is a close friend of the first family and his company, Grupo Pierdant, was expected to bid for lucrative contracts to run Mexicos ports.

The first lady cannot receive lucrative favours without authorisation from the federal executives legal counsel, an oversight agency, wrote Salvador Camerana, a columnist, in El Financeiro. The president of the republic cannot accept that his friends extend favours worth thousands of dollars to him, his wife, their children or to their collaborators.

Eduardo Bohrquez, head of the advocacy group Transparency Internationals Mexico chapter, told the Wall Street Journal that the first couple faced renewed scrutiny. It reignites the discussion over the links that the president and his wife have with businessmen, particularly the type of relation that they could have with someone who pays your property taxes.

The two main opposition parties, the National Action party (PAN) and Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) have asked for an investigation into the Miami apartments, which are in Ocean Tower One, a gated community with a pool, tennis courts and white glove concierge in Key Biscayne, an affluent enclave in Miami-Dade County.

Such an investigation would probably be the responsibility of federal auditors and the comptrollers office.

In a statement, Eduardo Snchez, the presidents spokesman, said that the first lady used Pierdants apartment only on rare occasions and that there was no conflict of interest because the businessman had no federal government contracts and was not participating in current bids.

The spokesman declined to say why Pierdants company, Biscayne Ocean Holdings, paid taxes in 2014 on the first ladys apartment, unit 404, which is directly beneath his own unit 304.

In a statement the spokesman also questioned the Guardians veracity and claimed the newspaper had apologised several years before over a separate story about the president. The Guardian has not apologised for its reporting.

Pierdant, the co-founder of DecoBikes, a bicycle-sharing program in Miami and San Diego, has declined to speak to the Guardian, but a Mexican news website quoted him saying the first lady, a former telenovela star, asked him to handle the property tax and reimbursed him.

At the time Pierdant bought the Key Biscayne apartment in 2009 he was overdue on mortgage payments for another Coral Gables property, according to court documents seen by the Wall Street Journal. Asked by Univision how he could afford to pay one apartment in cash while owing money on another property, Pierdant was quoted as saying: I had the money available.

The outcry over the first familys property dealings in Miami comes at a delicate time for Pea Nieto, who is battling a sluggish economy and rampant crime. A poll taken before the current row showed his approval ratings dropping to 23%, his worst showing since taking office in 2012. The newspaper Reforma said it was the lowest approval rating for a president since it began publishing similar polls in 1995, just after a huge currency devaluation.

The Miami property arrangements have fuelled unease because they echo aspects of the first ladys purchase of a $7m mansion in Mexico City from another businessman with government contracts the so-called Casa Blanca (White House) scandal.

It landed like a bombshell in 2014, wrecking Pea Nietos reformist credentials and reviving longstanding concerns about corruption in the ruling Institutional Revolutionary party (PRI).

The first lady later returned the property and last month Pea Nieto apologized, saying the scandal had dented faith in the presidency and government. For this reason, with all humility I ask your forgiveness.

The president made the apology as he signed into law an anti-corruption system that his PRI party hopes will boost its credibility in the run-up to the 2018 presidential election.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/aug/12/mexico-president-pena-nieto-wife-miami-apartment


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