President López Obrador delivered a scathing rebuke of the newspaper Reforma on Friday after it published a story on its front page about the alleged embezzlement of 223 million pesos (US $10.5 million) by members of the government in the municipality where he was born.
Published under the headline “223 million pesos disappear in AMLO’s homeland,” the report said that the Tabasco state Congress repudiated the Morena party government of Macuspana after it detected the missing funds and replaced it with a three-member municipal council.
Reforma reported that the mayor of Macuspana, located about 50 kilometers southeast of Tabasco, and more than 20 members of the municipal government, including López Obrador’s sister-in-law, resigned last week as a result of their alleged corruption being uncovered.
Speaking at his morning news conference on Friday, the president criticized Reforma for publishing the story because the alleged corruption hasn’t been proven.
López Obrador said his communications coordinator had spoken with Tabasco Governor Adán Augusto López, who also represents the ruling Morena party, and that he confirmed that the resignation of the Macuspana mayor and other members of the council was not related to the alleged corruption.
“There is not yet any embezzlement declared by the state auditor’s office nor by the [Tabasco] Congress,” López Obrador said.
He called Reforma a “trashy publication” and a “bulletin of conservatism” and charged that the newspaper is a protector and sponsor of Carlos Salinas de Gortari, widely considered one of Mexico’s most corrupt presidents.
López Obrador stressed that his criticism was of the highest echelons of Reforma not its reporters and press workers.
The president took aim at the Mexico City-based broadsheet for suggesting that he was involved with the alleged wrongdoings of his sister-in-law, who was the municipal trustee, noting that they published a photo of him with her.
“It’s a classic case of underworld journalism,” he said.
“Reforma is a bulletin of conservatism, … it has no scruples. It’s a trashy publication, without ethics, without professionalism. Imagine … dedicating eight columns to something that is not proven. … Don’t go and say tomorrow that I’m defending my sister-in-law or that … I’m attacking free speech. I’ve said with complete clarity [that] if any family member [of mine] commits a crime, he or she must be prosecuted, whoever it is,” López Obrador said.
“The people don’t want cronyism, nepotism, none of those blights of politics. … Imagine if I’d protected my family members, the council [of Macuspana] wouldn’t have disappeared.”
The president claimed that the real reason why Reforma published its story about corruption in his native Tabasco was to sully his name. “This is vile journalism, … as they are conservatives and very hypocritical … they act in an immoral way.”
López Obrador has criticized the newspaper frequently since he took office in late 2018, asserting that it is part of the prensa fifi, or elitist press, and a bearer of neoliberalism, which he derides as the cause of many of Mexico’s problems.
Its editor received death threats last year after the president lashed out at the newspaper for publishing his home address, while Reforma revealed in May that it fielded a call a from a man who threatened to blow up its offices if it didn’t correct criticisms it had made of López Obrador.