MEXICO CITY (AP) – Mexico's first lady said late Tuesday that she will sell her interest in a personal home built and still owned by a company that has gained millions in contracts under President Enrique Peña Nieto, an apparent effort to quell a conflict-of-interest scandal that has surrounded the couple.
Former actress Angelica Rivera laid out her earnings as a soap opera star and explained how she came to build the multi-million-dollar home in Mexico City's most exclusive neighborhood in a recorded video statement posted on her website.
"I have nothing to hide," she said, adding at the end of her 7-minute address, "I have taken the decision to sell my interests in the purchase contract of the house."
Rivera said she didn't want the house to cast any aspersions on her integrity or that of her family.
The website of journalist Carmen Aristegui was the first to report that the personal home of the president and first lady was registered under Ingenieria Inmobiliaria del Centro, a subsidiary of Grupo Higa, a key government contractor. The report estimated the value of the house at $7 million.
Just days before the story came out, Peña Nieto's government canceled a high-speed rail contract that had been granted to the sole bidder, a consortium that included Constructora Teya, another Grupo Higa company.
Rivera said she met Juan Armando Hinojosa, whose family owns Grupo Higa and began planning the housein 2009, based on her own earnings after 25 years with Televisa. She was already dating Peña Nieto, then governor of Mexico state, where Grupo Higa and its affiliates were granted more than $8 billion pesos ($600 million) in construction projects, according to the Aristegui report.
Rivera said Tuesday she bought the house for $4 million on an eight-year contract at an interest rate of 9 percent, and so far has paid about 30 percent of what she owed.
The couple married in 2010, before Peña Nieto was elected president in 2012.
Speaking earlier in the day, Peña Nieto said reports about the Mexico City mansion have led to "countless versions and falsehoods."
The conflict-of-interest scandal came as the Peña Nieto administration was already under fire for its handling of the disappearance of 43 teachers college students at the hand of a mayor and local police working with a drug cartel. The fate of the students still hasn't been confirmed, though the attorney general said there is evidence they were killed and their bodies incinerated. The disappearances have sparked daily protests, some violent.
Peña Nieto said Tuesday that amid the sometimes violent demonstrations, he perceived an "orchestrated effort to destabilize" reforms that he is pushing.
He also said he wouldn't let the controversy over the house "cast doubt on the confidence that the majority of Mexicans have given me to lead the country into the future."