By THÉRÈSE MARGOLIS
Tensions between leftist Mexico City Governor Claudia Sheinbaum and the capital’s opposition Cuauhtémoc Municipality Mayor Sandra Cuevas reached a tipping point over the weekend after Sheinbaum ordered 130 police officers on Thursday, Jan. 26, to storm Cuevas’ offices, allegedly because of a tip that Cuevas had used municipal funds to produce anti-Sheinbaum pamphlets.
By Friday, Jan. 27, both Sheinbaum and Cuevas were filing legal complaints against the other.
Tensions between the two women have been brewing for nearly a year, starting in March 2022, when Sheinbaum — a staunch member of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s (AMLO) ruling National Regeneration Movement (Morena) party and a top contender for that party’s 2024 presidential nominee — tried to have Cuevas — a member of Mexico’s conservative National Action Party (PAN) and a wannabe contender for Mexico City governor that same year — suspended from her post due to a series of scandals, including allegedly handing out cash inside balloons to constituents, closing a sports complex in her district without any explanation and stating that she “didn’t like poor people” (none of which contributed to Cuevas’ popularity, except, presumably, with the recipients of the cash-packed balloons).
Meanwhile, Sheinbaum has been facing her own uphill battle with voter popularity, due to mounting crime and violence in Mexico City, a scandal involving unorthodox treatment for covid-19 patients and, most recently, mounting discontent over at least three deadly metro train accidents since she took office, presumably caused by a lack of adequate maintenance.
Perhaps hoping to divert attention to the metro crisis, Sheinbaum on Thursday night played what could be the trump card that came back to bite her with the unprecedented police assault on Cuevas’ offices.
In what can only be interpreted as a carefully crafted “coincidence,” it just so happened that Mexico City Comptroller General Juan José Serrano Mendoza was in the vicinity of Cuevas’ offices when an anonymous tip came in that she had a stash of anti-Sheinbaum propaganda in the building.
And equally coincidental was that Serrano Mendoza decided to investigate the allegation himself, replete with the130 police officers who just happened to be in the neighborhood in full stormtrooper gear and ready to surround the premises.
Within seconds — not minutes — seconds, Mexican social media was flooded with the claims that Cuevas was using public funds to crucify Sheinbaum with negative propaganda.
Serrano Mendoza later reported that, “behind the materials that were seized (which allegedly included 13 packages with flyers and 12 canvases), a scheme of diversion of resources is presumed, for which the office of the Internal Control Body opened an investigation file, in addition to notifying the capital’s Prosecutor’s Office of the facts.”
The pamphlets that were seized — which Cuevas claimed she had never seen before — included slurs against the Morena government of Sheinbaum, and based on those allegations and the presumption that the flyers had been paid for with government funding, the Sheinbaum administration filed criminal charges against Cuevas.
In turn, Cuevas denounced the officials who carried out the proceedings on Thursday, accusing them of the crimes of illegal deprivation of liberty, illegal exercise of public service and illegal use of public force.
While Sheinbaum has described the discovery of the pamphlets as “a sample of the dirty war being waged by the opposition” against her and her administration, Cuevas has claimed that the raid on her offices was “a setup.”