By THÉRÈSE MARGOLIS
Mexico’s National Sports Commission (Conade) has found itself in a bit of a hammer hold regarding how it treats its athletes.
Budget cutbacks are taking a toll not just on Conade’s image, but also on the nation’s leading international competitors, who for years have depended on nominal government stipends to help defray the cost of their training and equipment.
One such example is Olympic judoka (judo athlete) Nabor Castillo Pérez, one of Mexico’s most renowned judo competitors and a five-time medal-winner of the Pan American Games (including gold in 2011), who has, over the course of the last week, been making social media posts that have gone viral among detractors of the country’s left-leaning president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO).
What Castillo Pérez has been tweeting about – and what has caught the attention of sports fans and AMLO non-fans nationwide – is the fact that as a result of severe federal budget cuts at Conade, he and other government-subsidized athletes have seen their stipends slashed from 5,000 pesos a month to just 2,000 pesos a month – less than the 3,600 pesos a month that the AMLO administration is doling out to the country’s unproductive, ni-estudian-ni-trabajan, out-of-school-out-of-work “ninis” to encourage them to continue to be unproductive.
“Thank you Conade for cutting my sports scholarship, which to begin with was minimal,” Castillo Pérez tweeted in a now-viral posting.
“With this support and motivation for Mexico’s top athletes, who have already qualified for the (2019) Pan American Games (the second-most important sports event in the Olympic circuit), we are now receiving less than a nini. This is an embarrassment for the country.”
Castillo Perez, who competed in the London Olympics in 2012 and the Brazil Olympics in 2016 and is currently in training for the 2020 Tokyo games, is not the only Mexican Olympic athlete who is expressing his disgruntle with Conade, although he may be the most vocal.
Other international sports contenders have also voiced their anger at the current government’s apparent disinterest in sports (with the exception of baseball, of course, which AMLO has elevated to a monarchial level with the creation of a special presidential baseball commission, supported by a budget of 500 million peso a year, because he happens to like the game).
Meanwhile, Conade head Ana Gabriela Guevara, herself a decorated Olympian and a victim of AMLO’s slash-and-burn federal budget austerity (except for his pet projects), knowing full well which side of her bread is buttered, has kept her mouth shut, refusing to respond to the growing controversy.
It is worth noting that before AMLO cut Conade’s budget, the commission received a total of just 145 million pesos over a three-year period, while the president’s current budget for nini payouts for this year alone is 4 billion pesos.
It is unlikely that Castillo Pérez and his fellow Olympic athletes will get their financial woes resolved any time soon, since he and the others who have dared to condemn the administration have earned the president’s wrath for their insolence.
But there is a powerful message that Mr. López Obrador is sending to the nation: You can earn more by being unproductive than by honoring your nation as an internationally recognized athlete. In other words, it pays to do nothing.