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By JUAN DE JESÚS BREENE

An incredible amount of buzz is circulating about the new soon-to-be bestseller “El Rey del Cash” (“The Cash King”), the tell-all book by journalist Elena Chávez, the former wife of César Yáñez, who was the long-time spokesperson and former right-hand of current Mexican President Andrés Manual López Obrador (AMLO).

The book is set to go on sale online and in bookstores in the next few days.

AMLO has already claimed that it is yet another example of right-leaning conservatives trying to discredit him without evidence, the same type of attacks that he says his adversaries use against him in his often erratic statements promulgated in his daily morning briefings.

Copies of the manuscript were of course leaked in advance to the press. Pulse News Mexico had the chance to review a copy and the evidence presented by Chávez seems to be pretty strong and damning against the Mexican president, who ad nauseum, touts himself as impeccably honest and as the almost-sole pillar against corruption in Mexico.

The second tenant for credibility is that Chávez is an accomplished journalist with 25 years of experience under her belt, and that the book is published by Random House, a highly respected printer.

To understand the percept of the book, it is imperative to first understand the Mexican concept of the “moche.” Loosely translated as a kickback, like many things in Mexico,the moche’s roots are deep and its connotations are wide. Complete books could be written on the cultural aspects of the moche as a kind of revolving door of favors and award of concessions and contracts to families, friends, sponsors and/or political parties.

In modern times, it normally consists of awarding high-dollar public works, bulk purchases and other contracts to those to whom a politician is indebted or in bed with, with the expectation that the benefactor will receive a kickback for awarding the contract since the specs that were submitted in the not-so-transparent bidding process have built-in bait and switch provisions for materials, workmanship, construction quality and the like. This arrangement guarantees benefactee’s ability to be the most attractive bidder, along with the assurance of pocketing an even greater tax-free profit while giving a huge kickback, in cash.

In the case of what is put forth in “El Rey del Cash,” the money is all channeled to AMLO and his leftist National Regeneration Movement (Morena) political party.

The premise of the book is that AMLO institutionalized the moche process during his time as the mayor of Mexico City, from 2000 to 2005, and the process was then continued and refined by his successor at that post, Marcelo Ebrard, Mexico’s current secretary of foreign relations.

The book outlines how the current Mexico City mayor and the supposed favored choice of AMLO as the nation’s next president, Claudia Sheinbaum, continues the practice and keeps the cash rolling in.

The book’s 28 chapters are stories-in-context from the author’s perch-side view of the political machine over 18 years with her former husband at the breakfast, lunch and dinner table, along with numerous plane, car and elevator rides. It includes actual screenshots of text messages.

These glimpses into the massive movements and laundering of public funds to private pockets also squarely names the contract winners and facilitators.

One of the many examples is the case of Metro Line 12, built under Ebrard when he was Mexico City’s mayor in a contract awarded to business tycoon José María Rioboo, resulting in Ebrard’s two-year self-imposed exile over the project’s suspicious finances. In May 2021, under the mayorship of Sheinbaum, Line 12 collapsed, leaving 26 dead and 80 injured, apparently due to the lack of preventative  maintenance and or what should have been the detection of shoddy construction workmanship, depending on which version one chooses to accept.

Notably, both Ebrard and Sheinbaum happen to be potential presidential candidates for Morena.

Also included as appendices in the book are interviews with three of the main sources of information, somewhat akin to three chapter-long footnotes of the full context of the anecdotes shared in the earlier chapters.

And finally, the appendix concludes with copies of the asset statements, a requirement for high-level public servants and elected politicians. Included are those of AMLO, Ebrard and the author’s ex-husband, along with two other key figures’ patrimony, frequently referenced in the book.

Based on the evidence presented by Chávez, the numbers don’t add up between what these folks self-report and subsequently swear to be their assets and the flamboyant lifestyles and spending practices.

“El Rey del Cash” is a very easy read and offers a unique insight into the inner circle of Mexico’s political power.

What the book does not include is why all of this is so easy to get away with in Mexico, beyond the long custom of the moche.

While other countries collect and distribute taxes with the least percentage going to the federal and state levels, most remaining at the local or municipal levels, Mexico’s tax system is just the opposite. In Mexico, the highest percentage of tax revenues goes to the federal and state levels, returning scraps to the local level.

Throwing Mexico City into the mix as one of the Mexican states, the amount of money concentrated between Sheinbaum’s and AMLO’s offices collectively is the Mexican government’s cash cow, and is a challenge to even monetize.

Chavéz’s book may have just pushed up the inauguration of the 2024 presidential campaign season.

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