By RICARDO CASTILLO
Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) is not yet president of Mexico, but he’s already indirectly issued his first executive order through the Mexican Senate.
On Monday, Nov. 6, his first fully fulfilled campaign promise to strip former presidents of their juicy pension went into effect as Senate President Martí Batres ordered the publication in the Official Gazette of the Federal Law of Remunerations to Public Service Officials, under which no official may have a higher payment than the president, which as of Dec. 1, will officially be of 108,000 Mexican pesos.
In a different mandate of the new law, it states that the pensions that living presidents, as well as the widows of now-deceased ones, will be immediately suspended as of Dec. 1.
Living former Mexican presidents include Luis Echeverría, who governed from 1970 to 1976 and is now 96 years old. Also getting their pensions are Vicente Fox (2000-2006) and Felipe Calderón (2006-2012.)
Thus far, the only ones that have commented on the pension suspension have been Vicente Fox and Felipe Calderón, both of the National Action Party (PAN). Fox wept crocodile tears because he will no longer be getting his approximately 205,000 pesos a month. In a letter to a radio journalist, he said that “if it’s for the good of the country, I’m willing to renounce to my pension.” Of course, Fox did not “renounce” his pension, he just had it taken away from him.
Former President Calderón went on the air on the morning of Thursday, Nov. 7, to announce the formation of a new political party possibly, starting next January, and when asked about his pension, he reminded the interviewer that he’s been donating “part of” his to a cancer foundation since 2017 and that he would not be financially affected, but that the cancer foundation will no longer receive the money.
Former President Ernesto Zedillo, on the other hand, renounced the pension a long time ago and he currently lives in the United States, where he makes his living lecturing, teaching and working as a business advisor to corporations. Another president that declined receiving a pension is Carlos Salinas de Gortari, who is an active investor and a member of the board of directors of the Wall Street Journal.
What Calderón was unable to answer, however, is what would happen to his large protection entourage made up of 25 military personnel. The new Remuneration Law says nothing about them, but we can assume that once he is sworn in, AMLO will send all of the president’s military protection of over 3,000 officers from the three branches (Army, Navy, Air Force) back to regular barrack duty. Nowadays, according to El Financiero newspaper, Calderón is protected by 425 members of the elite military unit known as the Presidential Major State (Estado Mayor Presidencial) at a hefty cost as “family protection” is extended to all of his close relatives.
At present, the protection given to former presidents – except Zedillo in the United States – is said to cost an average of 875,000 pesos a month for each of the former heads of state. Plus, Calderón issued an executive order providing his family with protection. That’s a lot more than 25 people paid with federal funds.
In Mexico, it is often said that all former presidents, without exception, “stole sufficient money” from the poor people so as not to need a pension. Hence, AMLO’s much-touted campaign promise is for the most part a welcome one.
The first president to issue a pension mandate for former presidents was Echeverría, at the end of his mandate in 1976. Besides a hefty income for himself, he also allotted his protection with 78 military personnel. That figure, over the years, has been reduced.
Then now-deceased former President Miguel de la Madrid in 1988 changed the mandate to stipulate that should the recipient of the pension pass away, their widow would continue to receive 80 percent of the pension the first year, with reductions of 10 percent over the next four years until reaching a bottomline of 50 percent of the retired president’s pension fund. Nowadays, only Sasha Montenegro, widow of former president José López Portillo (1976-1982) and De la Madrid’s widow Paloma Cordero enjoy a pension of 105,000 pesos a month. Those pensions will also apparently disappear.
The Senate majority made up of the new National Regeneration Movement (Morena) analyzed in depth the executive orders issued by Echeverría and De la Madrid, concluding that “none of those agreements has validity because they were not signed by the former presidents nor published in the Official Gazette. A third agreement, issued one day before Felipe Calderón finished his mandate (Nov. 29, 2012), did not meet the requisites either and what he requested was the expansion of Presidential Mayor Estate personnel to protect his family.”
The real issue, the Morena-controlled Senate concluded, was that it was not the pension the former presidents received that was onerous to the nation, but the large amount of military personnel allotted to them, a figure which was bound to grow when current President Enrique Peña Nieto steps down.
In terms of official protocol, this law was sent to Peña Nieto to be signed a few days after the new Congress took power last Sept. 1. Since Peña Nieto did not sign the Remunerations Law, Senate President Batres validated it immediately after publication in the Official Gazette.
Needless to say that, in Mexico popular humor is already running amok in social media. Since the only one whining about not getting his pension has been Vicente Fox, it is said that his curse on Mexico will be worse since he will not get a new airport, he will not have a pension and he is condemned for life to wake up next to his notorious wife Marta Sahagún and see her every morning with no makeup on!
Oh my gosh!