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Payment to Mexican president’s brother raises hackles

July 9, 2021 GMT
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador speaks during a ceremony marking the third anniversary of his presidential election at the National Palace in Mexico City, Thursday, July 1, 2021. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador speaks during a ceremony marking the third anniversary of his presidential election at the National Palace in Mexico City, Thursday, July 1, 2021. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Video of a man giving a packet of cash to a brother of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador had the president — who has made the fight against corruption his signature issue — on the defensive on Friday, vowing that there would be no coverup.

The image first reported by journalist Carlos Loret de Mola shows David León handing the equivalent of $7,500 to Martín Jesús López Obrador in 2015 — some three years before the president was elected.

León is heard saying on the video that the cash was from “my savings” and telling the president’s brother, “I’ll make a note of it,” to which Martín Jesús López Obrador replies “No, buddy. We’ll write that off.”

Léon, who served as head of the federal civil defense office in 2018 and 2019, later wrote in his Twitter account that “the money mentioned there was part of my personal savings and it was a loan.”

But the brother’s comment on the video suggested he might not have intended to pay it back. It was not immediately clear if had, or what the loan was for.

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The president said he was told his was a personal loan, and said he hadn’t seen Martín Jesús in several years.

López Obrador won office in 2018 on his pledge to fight corruption and live austerely, something he personally has done, but questions have been raised about his family.

The report was reminiscent of another 2015 video that showed another of the president’s brothers, Pío López Obrador, receiving a bundle of cash from León. That video was released last year by the same journalist, Loret de Mola, who unearthed this week’s video.

Shady financial dealings by Mexican presidents and their relatives have dogged the country for decades, but they almost always involve huge amounts of money or property.

“If my brother has committed any crime, or anybody has, I won’t cover up for them,” the president said Friday. “It s quite clear that if someone commits a crime, who it is, they should be punished.”

López Obrador has long branded such revelations as part of a conspiracy by the media and “conservatives” against him.

López Obrador has claimed a certain degree of moral superiority, castigating the media each week in a contest he describes as the “lie of the week.”

Senators from the opposition National Action Party wrote in a statement that “López Obrador’s family is full of corrupt individuals who should be standing before a judge, but who enjoy impunity given to them by the president.”