Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador presenting the alleged income of journalist Carlos Loret de Mola. Photo: presidencia.gob.mx

By THE PULSE NEWS MEXICO STAFF

Civil organizations, prosecutors and lawyers on Friday, Feb. 11, condemned Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) for publicly disclosing the alleged income of journalist Carlos Loret de Mola and warned that it constitutes a federal crime.

During his the morning press conference in Hermosillo, Sonora, Friday morning, AMLO displayed a slide with a list of the journalist’s supposed income during 2021, coming with payments from at least five different companies.

The president then said that he would ask the Finance Secretariat (Hacienda) to investigate the Loret de Mola’s tax records to see if he declared all his imcome.

Leopoldo Maldonado, director of the media watchdog Artículo 19 in Mexico added that there was an inherent danger given that the display was made from the presidential pulpit during a period when there are of growing attacks on professional communicators.

“The effort and emphasis (of the conference) was to attack the journalist, whom he has openly declared his enemy for the investigations related to his son José Ramón López Beltran. He exhibited personal data, which is his income, data that is protected by law,” Maldonado said.

Article 69 of the Mexican Tax Code clearly states that officials involved in the various procedures related to the application of tax provisions are obliged to keep absolute confidentiality regarding the declarations and data provided by taxpayers or by third parties related to them, except in certain cases, such as criminal proceedings.

“The president, being a public official, and the director boss of the head of the Tax Administrative Service (SAT), Raquel Buenrostro, is also obliged to keep fiscal information secret,” said Óscar Márquez, prosecutor and partner of the law firm Calvo Nicolau and Márquez Cristerna.

“It is a correct assertion that AMLO violated fiscal secrecy,”

Márquez added that this crime is punishable by a sentence ranging from between one and six years in prison, although the president would have legal jurisdiction.

Although AMLO later claimed that the alleged information that he presented was sent to him by unknown supporters, the data was most likely provided by the SAT, noted Diego Cuevas, a partner of GLZ Abogados, a firm that specializes in consulting and tax litigation.

“Everything indicates that if the information is true, it was obtained through the SAT and, if that is the case, there is a violation of Article 69,” he said.

For her part, Dafne Méndez, a founding member of Privacy Watchers, said that the information shared by the president is likely to be considered sensitive personal data because it contains financial information that can put the journalist at risk for potential kidnapping and extortion.

“The only way this information can be released is under a court order issued by a competent authority,” she explained.

Another prosecutor and lawyer, who requested anonymity, described that any official who accesses the information has the obligation of secrecy and, if he violates it, he commits a crime.

In addition, he continued, if another official asks for the information or incites him to reveal it, as could have happened in this case, that other official is called an instigator and is also criminally responsible.

“The president, at the end of the day, is a public official, and by not maintaining that secrecy, he is engaging in illicit activity,” he said.

For her part, María Elena Pérez-Jaén, former commissioner of the Federal Institute for Access to Information (today the Office of Access to Information and Personal Data Protection, or INAI), warned that AMLO’s disclosure of information about a person’s personal income constitutes a threat to society as a whole, since rights and laws are being flagrantly violated and citizens are being put at risk.

“Regardless of the complaint that is presented to the INAI, the INAI is obliged to initiate a procedure against Andrés Manuel López Obrador ex officio,” she said.

Meanwhile, on Friday night a viral Twitter protest of more than 68,000 journalists, legal authorities, politicians and supporters of Loret de Mola set the stage for even greater resistance to the president, who has made no secret of his hatred of the media and have openly accused numerous journalists of being “corrupt,” without any legal or physical evidence to support this claims.

 

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