OPINION

Photo: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

By THÉRÈSE MARGOLIS

Well, whatever you might say about the children of Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), you cannot say that they are not resourceful.

AMLO’s eldest son, José Ramón López Beltrán, made international headlines in January when it was revealed that he had been living in multimillion-dollar home in Houston that just happen to belong to a top executive from one of the biggest suppliers of the state-run (and, coincidentally, bankrupt) oil venture Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex).

Then there is Gonzalo Alfonso López Beltrán, a 30-year-old sociology studies drop-out from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) who has managed to keep a relatively low profile in terms of politics, other than to cash in one his dad’s notoriety to belly up to some high-rolling soccer and baseball tycoons in the hopes of promoting his fledgling sports health clinics.

But it is AMLO’s second son, Andrés Manuel, Jr., better known as “Andy,” (like José Ramón and Gonzalo Alfonso, a prodigy from the president’s first wife and partner of 24 years, Rocío Beltrán), who might just be the most salient sibling of the president’s four kids.

(For the record, López Obrador’s fourth child, Jesús Ernesto, born to his second wife, Beatriz Gutiérrez Müller, is just 14 and thus — rightly so — off limits from editorial comment, and besides, the kid has enough problems already as part of what must be Mexico’s most dysfunctional family to have to put up with negative press coverage.)

But getting back to Andy…

He is a 36-year-old, $800 Louis Vuitton-sports-shoe-wearing Daddy’s Boy who has earned himself the nickname of the “Gatekeeper of the National Palace” for allegedly supervising who can and who cannot enter the presidential residence, some claim, in exchange for a generous “courtesy fee.”

Intimately involved with a former Miss Venezuela and not shy to let it be known that he plans to go into the “family business” of politics, Andrés Manuel, Jr., when he is not “collecting tolls” at the National Palace gates, is an enterprising chocolatier, running a cacao-processing plant (purportedly with brothers José Ramón and Gonzalo Alfonso, but they seem to be more silent partners than active participants in the business).

After his chocolate factory began operations in July 2019, the first Rocio Chocolate shop (named after the brothers’ mother), officially deeded to Andrés Manuel López Beltrán (no mention of any brothers), opened in downtown Mexico City back in September 2020.

A second store opened its doors on Wednesday, April 20, in Villahermosa, Tabasco.

Andy, who made it clear to the media that all the money being used for the chocolate shop came from “personal family finances” and “is not intended to make much profit” (no wonder it is a family business and not a PLC), said during the opening ceremony that he and his siblings are now planning to launch a third store in Mexico City in the near future and are also considering opening other branches of the confectionary store nationwide.

>But while Chocolates Rocio’s candies are purported to be extremely tasty (I haven’t tried them, but I want to), there is a bitter side to this sweet candy story.

Although some of the cacao used to produce the chocolate does in fact come from Andy’s own farm in Tabasco, the lion’s share, it seems, is outsourced to local producers, who, it so happens, are overseen by Mexican businessman Hugo Chávez (not a reincarnation of the deceased Venezuelan leader), a consultant at AMLO’s controversial Sembrando Vida tree-planting program (which, according to Green Peace, has led to far more deforestation than forestation).

According to an extensive journalistic report conducted by several leading Mexican newspapers, the cultivation of cocoa to supply Chocolates Rocío was promoted as part of the Sembrando Vida program, despite the fact that the community of farmers it affected did not choose that crop when they were originally asked what they wanted to plant.

And despite the fact that Chávez continues to be tied to Sembrando Vida, his private company Agrofloresta Mesoamerican recently sold 2 million cacao seeds to producers in Tabasco and Papantla, Veracruz.

Moreover, in accordance with their contracts, those cocoa farmers are committed to selling their entire cocoa harvest exclusively to Agrofloresta Mesoamericana.

The farmers in Tabasco have lodged complains that Sembrando Vida representatives forced them to plant cocoa without providing adequate information as to how to cultivate the crops, leading to several of the growers losing the first their harvests.

But none of that is of any concern for Andy, who, along with his own personal gang of political Oompa Loompas and a Golden Ticket from Daddy, is single-handedly making Mexico a sweeter place, at least for him and his siblings.

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