The brand new book by Elena Chávez, The King of Cash. The hidden looting of the president and his close team (Grijalbo, 2022) may be an editorial, social media, or political phenomenon, but it is not a journalistic achievement. López Obrador and his movement have conducted themselves with absolute opacity for decades; in his government there is a non-transparent and very arbitrary management of resources and, in addition, multiple corruption scandals have broken out that remain in the fullest impunity. In this context, there is a great need to investigate, document, corroborate, reveal… In short, do journalism. That, unfortunately, is not what this book does.
In a country that has been accumulating attacks against journalists for so many years, in which the president and his propagandists attack the press that does not applaud them every day, and in which the deficits and vices that exist in the industry end up stigmatizing everyone guild, The King of Cash does not help. Neither to defend the work of the reporters who do comply with the rigors of the job, nor to raise the bar of the requirement to public powers. On the contrary. It is a book that is highly susceptible to being disqualified in particular and, even worse, to pay unfairly widespread disrepute, which the lopezobradorismo has known how to use to undermine the legitimacy of the scrutiny and accountability.
The reaction it has provoked in the official orbit, however, is also far from being exemplary. On the one hand, because in an act of supreme hypocrisy (of those who like to accuse their opponents so much, you know, seeing Murillo Karam in someone else’s eye and not Gertz Manero in their own) they ask the book to support with data their story, comme il faut , although it has never occurred to them to ask their leader for the same thing. Who would have said that the applauds of the hoax of the fraud in 2006, of the consultation to “judge” former presidents or of the cancellation of the NAIM, of the childcare centers and of the trusts for alleged acts of corruption never proven, would suddenly be so prone to demanding proof?
And, on the other hand, because signs of the modus operandi that the book recounts have been made known, time and time again, for a long time. Or would they prefer not to remember the videos of Carlos Ahumada, René Bejarano and Carlos Imaz? From the carousel of deposits orchestrated by Alejandro Esquer? From the images of Pío and Martín López Obrador receiving envelopes with money from David León? From the recordings of Eva Cadena receiving cash, or of Julio Scherer asking Julio Villareal for it? From the ruling of the Electoral Tribunal against Delfina Gómez for deducting “contributions” from the employees of the municipality of Texcoco when she was mayor? In light of those episodes, doesn’t The King of Cash acquire at least some credibility?
It is true that the book does not provide evidence. However, it offers a framework of interpretation that allows known cases to be inserted into a plot, accommodate them in a broader context and, above all, eager to be more and better investigated. We do not know if it is true, we do know that its relevance is indisputable. What did that three-time candidate live on who did not report income, who did not pay taxes, of whom there is no trace of a checkbook or bank account? How was the movement that led to Morena financed, the platform from which he eventually catapulted himself to the presidency of the Republic? If it’s not how the book tells it, then what was it?
That López Obrador had an apparently simple lifestyle does not resolve these doubts. Austere and honest are not synonyms. You can be austere without being honest and honest without being austere. Corruption does not only consist of getting rich illegally, it can also consist of diverting money from the treasury to support a family or a team, even if it is “modestly”, or to pay for the construction of a personal political project. The King of Cash doesn’t really provide answers, but it still leaves us with a lot of questions.
The opinions in this article are the sole responsibility of the author.