MGR's view - No Chinese carryout on this trip
Mexico may have been smoldering, but the First Couple winged their way to the Chinese capital over the weekend nevertheless. And in style.
True, they're still traveling in a three decade old, soon-to-be replaced presidential aircraft. But they can dream about the new one, being prepped and readied for final delivery right now (and at what a price: the deal was closed with Boeing for only a billion or so USD). More technologically advanced than Barack Obama's plane, they claim up in Everett.
First Lady Angélica - a former much adored telenovela (soap opera) star - had a stressful first week of November. Come to find out that her $7 million home - well, its not hers yet, since a deed in trust still lists the owner of record as a Mexican company (Grupo Higa) with ties to a Chinese construction group - was made available to her after Higa agreed to personally lend la primera dama about 70% of the purchase price.
"Why is she to blame for being the wife of the president, being successful, having savings and, forgive the expression, spending it anyway she wants?" That's how presidential press secretary Eduardo Sánchez responded when pressed by reporters, according to this Associated Press story.
Sánchez emphasized that an adjoining property of Rivera was a premarital acquisition, purchased before her marriage to Enrique (the second for both) on November 27, 2010, and that her sole intent was to expand her (not his) existing home (to something over 15,000 square feet of living space). He confirmed the sprawling mansion will eventually be retitled to both, when Higa's mortgage is retired.
Revelation of the Grupo Higa loan - first reported by famed and feared (or she should be) Mexican investigative journalist María del Carmen Aristegui Flores - might have been easily survivable flak, until the dauntless Aristegui disclosed that Higa and its affiliates had been awarded hundreds of millions of dollars in government contracts during Enrique Peña Nieto's pre-presidential term (2005-2011) as governor of the State of Mexico (Edomex).
The icing on the cake was that Grupo Higa's Chinese partner, with other construction consortium members, was awarded a high speed rail contract (Mexico City to Querétaro) earlier this year, for almost $4 billion USD. A one-bid contract, it should be noted. Which was then abruptly canceled by Mexico on Nov. 6, much to the dismay of the Chinese (and plainly in response to Sra. Aristegui's forthcoming exposé, which premiered on Sunday, Nov. 9).
The Peña Nietos may have been understandably ready to get out of town for a few days, but was Beijing the right choice under the circumstances? In any case, the Chinese didn't appear to hold any economic grudges this evening, as everyone gathered for dinner in traditional costume.
To make the long trip a bit easier, famed makeup artist Alfonso Waithsman ("makeup artist to the stars," photo at top) accompanied the First Lady. Everything looked quite in place on her arrival.
Meanwhile, Iguala and much of Mexico mourns tonight.
Nov. 19 - Angélica responds to accusers: "I have nothing to hide. I am an independent woman."
The trials and travails of Enrique Peña Nieto
Jan. 24, 2012 - But now he's "devoted to the Sacred Heart of Jesus"
Feb. 15, 2012 - "He takes them to heaven, but leaves them in hell"
June 3, 2013 - YouTube video posting by Peña Nieto ex-lover is sure to embarrass new president, and fascinate Mexico
Nov. 28, 2013 - Enrique Peña Nieto is "a marvelous husband"
The Televisa controversy
June 8, 2012 - U.K.'s The Guardian alleges Televisa-Enrique Peña Nieto deal
June 8, 2012 - Televisa responds to The Guardian
June 12, 2012 - U.S. diplomats troubled by Televisa-Peña Nieto links in 2009, charges The Guardian
Both had plenty of problems of their own to share with the other
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