Nuevo León Governor Jaime Rodríguez Calderón accused a local newspaper of lying yesterday and in a move reminiscent of United States President Donald Trump, ordered that its reporters will not be allowed at press conferences.
Rodríguez’ tiff with El Norte is over a story that said his government paid millions of pesos for the governor to be featured in a magazine article.
In an angry tirade, Rodríguez rejected the claim that his government paid for the article and subsequently promote it or that he has aspirations to run for president in next year’s election.
The Monterrey-based daily newspaper reported yesterday that a cover story about the governor — commonly referred to by his nickname El Bronco — in the magazine ARegional and associated publicity in Mexico City and Monterrey came with a price tag in excess of 7 million pesos (US $389,000).
At a press conference at the conclusion of a teachers’ event in Monterrey, Rodríguez denied that he had paid anything, charging that the newspaper’s inference was a fabrication.
“We didn’t pay a single peso. If the magazine charges or not or [if] there is a cost, that’s something else.”
When pressed by the El Norte reporter about who paid for the street advertising and billboards in the two cities, the independent governor responded, “I don’t know, ask the magazine, I don’t know. We didn’t pay anything, zero, nor will we pay.”
While researching the story, a journalist from the Monterrey paper requested budget estimates from both the magazine and publicity company Grupo Vallas for the kind of feature and advertising they ran on Rodríguez.
While ARegional general manager Cutberto Anduaga quoted the magazine spread at 400,000 pesos, the commercial manager of Grupo Vallas, Carlos Aldana, said that advertising for the “Nuevo León campaign” had come to 7 million pesos.
In response Rodríguez said, “That doesn’t mean that we contracted it or paid for it. You perversely put it like that.”
He went on to reiterate his position.
“Today the newspaper El Norte publishes that we spent 7 million pesos on publicity for the governor because the governor wants to be president. Can you believe it?”
“It’s a huge lie. They have been throwing lies around because this government doesn’t pay them a single peso. I prefer to invest in schools than spend it on government publicity.”
“If you didn’t pay, can you tell us who paid for this?” the El Norte reporter asked again.
“I’m not going to answer you anything,” came the reply.
El Bronco also rejected claims that he has presidential aspirations. “Nobody has heard me say that I want to be [president].”
Rodríguez continued to attack the paper by questioning how its owner, Alejandro Junco de la Vega — who also operates other newspapers including Reforma in Mexico City — had been able to afford luxuries such as a yacht and helicopter.
He also queried how the owner’s family members had been able to buy a whole street in San Pedro, a Monterrey municipality, on May 24 for 7.3 million pesos from Mayor Mauricio Fernández.
“Soon I will do a campaign for my tequila and you will question me about that as well. I won’t ask you about how the owner of your newspaper stole a street in San Pedro or how they ride in a helicopter every day; where do they get the money to buy a helicopter? Who paid for the helicopter? What businesses does he have?”
When the newspaper’s reporter responded that the money came from “private resources,” Rodríguez asserted that his government could carry out an investigation into the newspaper’s finances to establish whether “it’s true that they are private and good funds or bad and ill-gotten funds.”
He also stated his intention to exclude El Norte reporters from future press conferences.
“From today on zero news for El Norte, and when I see you I’m not going to tell you anything . . . because I have the right to decide who I give information to, right?”
The governor, widely described as a maverick, continued to assert that he would explore legal avenues to force media to reveal their sources.
“If it’s legally possible I’ll do it . . . . It’s about time the media . . . explain where they get the information from, who gives it to them, then they can’t be hiding anything.”
In his lengthy invective against El Norte and the reporter who was present, Rodríguez also outlined his vision of how the media should conduct its investigations.
“I think that you should have consulted us, I believe that there should be fairness in the treatment of freedom of expression but why don’t you ask me? We have to regulate that so there is a right to reply that you evidently don’t give, you give it the next day when the damage has already been done.”