More videos have surfaced in which large amounts of cash change hands, but this time it’s the Morena party that’s involved.
Two videos show President López Obrador’s brother receiving large amounts of cash from David León, a former Civil Protection chief who was recently named to run a state company that will distribute medical supplies.
In one video, Pío López Obrador receives a paper bag which, according to León, contains 1 million pesos (US $45,300 at today’s exchange rate). The transaction reportedly took place in 2015 in Pío López Obrador’s home in Chiapas.
León tells López Obrador that the cash is to support the “movement” – presumably the now-ruling Morena political party – in Chiapas.
The president’s brother was a political operator for Morena in the state at the time while León was a private consultant and an advisor to the state government.
Léon also tells Pío López Obrador to let his brother know that “we’re supporting” his campaign for the 2018 presidential election.
The two men also spoke about arrangements for the delivery of an additional 1 million pesos.
In a second video, León gives Pío López Obrador a large stuffed envelope during a meeting in a restaurant that also reportedly took place in 2015.
“Here I’m bringing you 400,” León says, presumably referring to a quantity of 400,000 pesos.
The appearance of the videos, presented Thursday by journalist Carlos Loret de Mola on his program on the news portal Latinus, comes just days after a video was posted to YouTube in which two former Senate officials linked to the National Action Party (PAN) are seen receiving 2.4 million pesos. The money is believed to have been used to pay bribes to lawmakers in exchange for their support of the previous federal government’s 2013-14 structural reforms.
The damning video could be presented as evidence in the corruption case against former Pemex CEO Emilio Lozoya, who claims that several PAN lawmakers were paid bribes by the previous government and that former president Enrique Peña Nieto and two of his predecessors, Felipe Calderón and Carlos Salinas, were involved in corruption related to deals with the Brazilian conglomerate Odebrecht.
President López Obrador has described the Lozoya case as important because it will help shed light on the corruption committed by past government officials. However, the story also provides a welcome distraction for the president amid the coronavirus crisis and the accompanying economic downturn.
But a video of his brother receiving large sums of cash doesn’t look good for the corruption-fighting López Obrador.
Speaking at his morning news conference on Friday, he denied that the payments his brother received were corrupt but said the Attorney General’s Office should investigate them nevertheless.
López Obrador said the payments were “contributions to strengthen the [Morena] movement” and came from ordinary people who supported the party, which he founded in 2014. He said the funds were used for 2015 elections in Chiapas but when asked whether the campaign money was registered with authorities, the president said he didn’t know.
López Obrador rejected any suggestion that the money his brother received was in any way comparable to the Lozoya scandal currently embroiling a who’s who of Mexico’s political elite.
“Our adversaries seek to compare things, … this is quite normal … when a transformation is being carried out. … In this case of the video of my brother with David León there are obvious differences with relation to the other matters. … It’s not just the amount of money, which can’t be compared,” he said.
“In just one illicit operation that Mr. Lozoya is denouncing, they [Pemex under the former government] paid 200 million pesos for a junk [fertilizer] plant. In that case, … which has our adversaries very annoyed, it’s extortion without a doubt, it’s bribery, … it’s corruption,” López Obrador said.
“The aim [of the publication of the videos] is to damage the image of the government but they will not achieve it,” he added.
León, whom the president described as “one of the government’s best public servants” when announcing last month that he would be the director of a new state-run medical distribution company, responded on Twitter to the publication of the videos.
“From November 2013 to November 2018, I was a consultant not a public servant. My way of supporting the [Morena] movement was to collect resources among acquaintances for holding meetings and other activities,” he wrote.
León said he will not accept the nomination to head the new company until the matter of the videos has been clarified.
As of Friday morning, Pío López Obrador had not made any public comment about the videos.