POLITICS

Mexican President Peña Nieto in trouble again over real estate holdings

FILE - In this Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2015, file photo, Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto attends a ceremony promoting housing for low income families, single mothers and members of the armed forces at Los Pinos presidential residence in Mexico City. Pena Nieto has also seen his pro-business agenda derailed by allegations of corruption and the disappearance of 43 students after they were handed over by police to local drug traffickers. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte, File)

FILE - In this Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2015, file photo, Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto attends a ceremony promoting housing for low income families, single mothers and members of the armed forces at Los Pinos presidential residence in Mexico City. Pena Nieto has also seen his pro-business agenda derailed by allegations of corruption and the disappearance of 43 students after they were handed over by police to local drug traffickers. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte, File)

One day after Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto called for a constitutional reform to create a national anti-corruption agency, a report claimed that the president lied about how he came to acquire a lakefront property in an area filled with vacation homes for Mexico City residents.

Lawmakers from other political parties called for the president to make a full disclosure of his real estate assets after Reuters reported Peña Nieto actually bought a quarter-acre plot in Valle de Bravo—90-some miles west of the capital city—that he previously declared as having inherited from his parents.

Two years ago, in an attempt to make his assets public, Peña Nieto declared that he owned nine pieces of real estate—their value or whether they held any buildings was not disclosed. Of those, six were listed as having been inherited from his parents, including the property in Valle de Bravo.

But a public registry document listed Peña Nieto as having purchased the lot from a third party in 1988 for 11.2 million pesos, which at the time was around $5,000. 

Reuters reported that the president’s office did not comment on the subject despite multiple attempts to get a comment, but spokesman Eduardo Sanchez did post a letter on the presidential website replying to the article.

In it, he stated, "The property in question was acquired 27 years ago by the (deceased) father of the current president of the republic, who wanted to put the property in the name of his son, Enrique Peña Nieto, who was then 22 years old."

Sanchez also added that if the reporter had looked on his cell phone, "you will find various messages – voice and text – from yesterday."

"If [Peña Nieto] appears as the buyer, there's no way he can say it was a gift," Elizabeth Yañez, a National Action Party (PAN) deputy in the national congress, told Reuters.

The English wire service spoke to various legal experts in Mexico about the apparent discrepancy and was told that even if Peña Nieto had borrowed the money from his father, he couldn’t declare it as a gift.

"These sorts of excesses, evidence of falsehood in his declaration of assets ... are incredibly serious," said Alejandro Encinas, a left-leaning senator and former Mexico City mayor, calling for all the assets to be properly disclosed.

Reuters was unable to corroborate whether or not any of the other holdings were purchased.

Last week, Peña Nieto stated, "as president of the republic, I am firmly committed to combat corruption head-on, by strengthening the law and increasing transparency," in announcing his push for national anti-corruption reform—an election promise that he tried but failed to get approved during his first year in office. 

This isn’t the first time that Peña Nieto has come under fire for irregularities in his real estate holdings.

At the end of last year, reports emerged that when Peña Nieto was the governor of the state of Mexico, his wife, Angélica Rivera, purchased a $3.75 million home using loans from a construction mogul who won many government contracts. The developer was part of a consortium that in 2014 won a billion-dollar federal government contract to build a high-speed train from Mexico City to Querétaro.

Peña Nieto canceled the contract after allegations of corruption were raised.

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