Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Austerity didn’t stand in the way of a 9-million-peso upgrade to National Palace

President López Obrador has made “republican austerity” a centerpiece of his administration, but the government’s frugality didn’t stop it from spending almost 9 million pesos (US $453,000) to upgrade and embellish the National Palace, the seat of executive power.

According to a report by the news website Emeequis, the office of the president has signed at least 12 contracts for improvements to be carried out at the National Palace, where López Obrador – who decided to turn the official president’s residence into a cultural center — has lived with his wife and son since mid-2019, ostensibly as part of his own personal austerity drive.

In April 2019, three months before AMLO and his family moved into an apartment within the walls of the Mexico City palace, the president’s office spent more than 2 million pesos (US $100,700) to hire three companies to carry out maintenance on the building’s elevators, some of which are for the exclusive use of the president.

The office subsequently spent more than 1 million pesos to upgrade the building’s air conditioning system and 808,000 pesos to install telecommunications equipment.

Also before López Obrador moved in, new carpet was laid in the National Palace’s Treasury Room – where the president holds his daily press conferences – at a cost of almost 338,000 pesos. Another 348,000 pesos went to improvements of the main courtyard known as the Patio of Honor, and more than 405,000 pesos was spent on new awnings for the building, located opposite Mexico City’s central square, the zócalo.

The president’s office signed one contract worth almost 1.6 million pesos to have extensive renovation and maintenance work carried out, including the replacement of wooden floors and the repair and painting of walls.

Another contract for more than 1.2 million pesos was awarded for the installation of new lights on the building’s facade. However, some of the lights currently don’t work because they haven’t been properly maintained, Emeequis reported.

The president’s office spent 138,000 pesos to hire a company to convert the palace’s Madero Room into an exhibition space, while in March last year, an artist was commissioned to paint a portrait of former president Lázaro Cárdenas, which was hung in the president’s office. Ernesto Espiridion Ríos Rocha received 139,200 pesos (US $7,010) for his oil painting, which was reportedly commissioned by López Obrador himself.

To further beautify “the palace of (so-called) austerity,” a florist was awarded a five-month 250,000-peso contract to supply flowers, including lilies, orchids and roses, between August and December 2020.

All told, the president’s office spent 8.97 million pesos on projects to upgrade the palace and make it more attractive, Emeequis said. The office justified the expenses by saying that the palace is not only López Obrador’s official residence but also the “permanent stage of official acts” presided over by the president and attended by foreign heads of state and other dignitaries.

The Ministry of Finance has also awarded contracts totaling 9 million pesos to carry out repairs to the facade of the large building and waterproof its roof.

That means that at least 18 million pesos (US $906,400) has been spent on improvements at the National Palace since López Obrador took office in late 2018 – no small amount for a president who prides himself on pinching pesos.

Source: Emeequis (sp) 

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