The President’s Salary
By ALEJANDRO ENVILA FISHER
Since Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) took office three years ago, no government official in Mexico, be it fe3deral, state or municipal, nor member of any autonomous bodies or the country’s federal judicial powers, is allowed to have a salary higher than — or even equal to — that of the president.
However, since a rule was approved that illegally cut salaries and abolished benefits for high-eschalon bureaucrats, it has become commonplace for the president to use his base salary as a reference to accuse his political enemies of being wasteful, selfish, petty and even corrupt. These attacks are aimed at those officials who somehow managed to not have to give up the salaries they had rightfully earned.
Today, a manipulated concept of the presidential salary is being used as part of a media witch hunt against members of the National Electoral Institute (INE), as AMLO and his leftist National Regeneration Movement (Morena) party seek to extinguish the main agency in the country aimed as securing its democracy.
It is a strategy that the government and its cronies has honed to a fine art. Prior to the attacks on the salaries of the INE officials, they applied the same tactic to persecute ministers of the court, circuit magistrates, district judges, advisers from the National Institute for Transparency Access to Information and Personal Data Protection (INAI), the governor and sub-governors of the Central Bank of Mexico (Banxico) and even to directors and fulltime professors — many with several decades of seniority — of Mexico’s main public universities, starting with the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM).
In Mexico, the definition of a salary is composed of remuneration in cash, plus all the benefits that a worker receives. This is not a theory, but a labor norm enshrined in the Federal Labor Law.
The president’s salary, which is always talked about and with which other officials are compared to harass them, is the amount of the check or transfer that López Obrador receives every fortnight from the Treasury (Hacienda). But it is also the sum of all the benefits assigned to him as head of the federal executive power. Thus, the 140,000 pesos a month that López Obrador receives on his payroll are only a part — and not even the most significant part — of the presidential salary. To this amount must be added the equivalent in money of all the benefits inherent to the position. The total of that sum is the true amount of the presidential salary.
The president lives — quite literally — in a palace of dimensions that no other property has for housing in the country. Although there are many offices in the building, there are also multiple rooms and private spaces for the exclusive use of the president, his collaborators and his family, including a wonderful interior garden, an incomparable decoration made up of many works of art of incalculable historical value, large patios, meeting rooms, a huge parking lot and many spaces dedicated to the presidential residence, at least partially. The cost of renting and maintaining a property with the characteristics, location included, of the National Palace, is part of the president’s salary because he does not pay any rent to live there. Renting in a building like this the part of a building that the president occupies as a home, could easily cost 300,000 pesos a month, or more, if you could be found.
Neither the president nor his wife spends a single peso of their cash salary to buy food. The presidency provides food for the presidential family and his guests on any occasion. Filling that lavish pantry costs, at least, some 150,000 pesos a month. And the operation of a professional kitchen and cleaning service — since it is evident that neither the president nor his wife prepare food or clean the house, since both have more interesting things to do — cannot be less than 100,000 pesos a month.
The president does not spend money on buying or leasing a car for himself and others for his family, in addition to the fact that he does not drive because he has drivers at his disposal. The vehicles in which he travels, fully justified armored vans because his safety must be guaranteed, must cost at least another 100,000 pesos a month to rent. The estimated cost of leasing these vehicles, in addition to the salary of the driver or drivers used, which should not be less than 30,000 pesos per month added together if two chofers are considered, is also part of the president’s salary because it is a benefit for his comfort and safety.
The president does not spend on medical services and he is not treated at public health facilities. He and his family have at their disposal the top medical service of the Military Hospital, with the best specialists who work there. Furthermore, the president always has a medical service and an ambulance at his disposal, whether he is on tour or in his offices at the National Palace. How much does it cost to have an excellent medical team, not just one doctor, available in the next room, 24 hours a day? Conservatively, let’s say 250,000 pesos a month, at least. How much can it cost to have a fully equipped ambulance parked in the garage and paramedics round-the-clock? Let’s calculate another 200,000 pesos per month.
Neither the president nor his family spend any money on the clothes they wear. There is a budget for the wardrobe of the president and his financial dependents and the suits worn by the president are not cheap brands. One former AMLO collaborator stated that when he was the mayor of Mexico City, López Obrador habitually wore suits by the Italian designer Antonio Solito. An estimate as conservative as the previous ones would place the amount for his clothing expenditures at 100,000 pesos per month.
So, without considering other less frequent expenses such as vacations, an extremely low calculation would put the real presidential salary as follows:
Salary: 140,000 pesos
Housing: 300,000 pesos
Food: 150,000 pesos
Domestic services: 100,000 pesos
Vehicles: 100,000 pesos
Drivers: 30,000 pesos
Medical services: 250,000 pesos
Ambulances: 200,000 pesos
Clothing: 100,000 pesos
Add it all up — and remember, these are conservative estimates — and you get a figure of 1.37 million pesos a month. That figure is a much more realistic amount when talking about the president’s salary.
And it is against this amount that the salary of the rest of public service renders must be compared, including not only electoral or INAI advisors, ministers of the court, circuit magistrates and district judges, ambassadors and consuls, university rectors and directors of faculties, full-time professors and researchers, as well as medical directors of large highly specialized hospitals.
To support the populist discourse, in the last three years, opportunistic journalism has turned the salary of officials with greater seniority and a higher level of specialization in public service into a topic of recrimination.
Many pro-AMLO reporters have accused and harassed those responsible for organizing and guaranteeing the impartiality of the elections because they earn 200,000 pesos a month. These fact-distortioners do so by falsely claiming that the INE salaries exceed the amount of the presidential salary.
These information manipulators have done the same thing to defame and discredit judges who grants an amparo against an arbitrary decision of public power that violates human rights and to harass academics who defend the autonomy of their institutions or even the freedom of university thought.
Those so-called reporters (who are really just political hacks, encouraged — and surely rewarded — by the highest powers), are not just ignorant and unprofessional, but meanspirited.
They claim that it is outrageous that the rector of the UNAM or a highly trained researcher earns 150,000 pesos a month, despite their having 25 or 30 years of seniority in the institution, when the president really earns nine times that.
Ironically, those same pseudo-journalists seem to have no problem with AMLO’s political lapdog Ana Elizabeth García Vilchis (who runs his weekly Who’s Who in Media Lies) charging 80,000 pesos a month for misreading, stumbling, half-truths every Wednesday as part of his daily press conference.
The fact is, the president of Mexico does not earn 140,000 pesos a month, and if his salary were to be the measure of the remuneration received by other public servants (this should be discussed in greater detail and depth because it is not correct, nor is it convenient, nor is it justified), at least his real, total salary should be conisidered, rather than the misleading amount of his paycheck. To judge others based on a partial amount of his income is to misinform, lie and deceive in order to promote the devaluation of the public service, of the institutions and of the strength of Mexican democracy.
In any job, the salary must be proportional to the responsibility it entails, but also to the trajectory, to the preparation, to the proven capacity and to the results that the employee delivers, not to a false concept of misunderstood austerity, since that only tends to generalize impoverishment and promote the flight of talent.