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LATIN AMERICA

Mexico’s First Lady to sell her controversial luxury home

Angélica Rivera defends the president’s “integrity” and denies any conflict of interest

Angélica Rivera says she is putting her controversial Mexico City residence up for sale.
Angélica Rivera says she is putting her controversial Mexico City residence up for sale.

Mexico’s First Lady Angélica Rivera has launched a campaign to clear the cloud of controversy that has settled around her and President Enrique Peña Nieto after a November 9 article revealed that a government contractor sold them a luxury home. Rivera, a former soap opera actress, has denied any conflict of interest and offered an explanation to “defend the integrity of my children and husband” because they have “nothing to hide.” Despite the statement, the First Lady has announced she will be selling the residence.

In a message posted on YouTube, Rivera said she would sell the rights of the real estate contract she signed with Ingeniería Inmobiliaria del Centro, a subsidiary of Grupo Higa, which is owned by engineer Juan Armando Hinojosa. The real estate firm had won the contract to build the high-speed train route connecting Mexico City with Querétaro, one of Peña Nieto’s star infrastructure projects. The president himself canceled the contract on November 7 in order to relaunch a more transparent process.

The firm had won the contract to build the high-speed train route connecting Mexico City with Querétaro

“Yes, I knew the engineer Juan Armando Hinojosa, as I have known many other business leaders, artists and professionals,” Rivera admitted in the video before going on to explain that in 2009 she had begun looking for a site to build a home. Hinojosa’s real estate company found and acquired a lot near a residence owned by the actress on Paseo de Las Palmas, an upmarket area of Mexico City. The residence had been a gift from broadcaster Televisa, which produced many of the soap operas in which she starred. The lot located at Sierra Gorda, 150 became the site of a new seven-bedroom home with private gymnasium, jacuzzi and high-tech lighting fixtures.

Miguel Ángel Aragonés designed the building and construction began in July 2010, four months before Rivera married Peña Nieto, who was then governor of Mexico state. After construction got underway, the plans were expanded further. “Some time later, the real estate company told me the lot next to mine was on sale and we agreed to buy it to add to the home which was under construction,” Rivera explained.

Construction ended on January 12, 2012 – before Peña Nieto became president – and the actress signed a real estate contract with the company. “That day they gave me possession,” Rivera said. The contract, which the president’s office has made public, says the property was sold for 54 million pesos ($3.9 million) to be paid over eight years with a nine-percent interest rate. “So far I have paid 14.3 million pesos or almost 30 percent of the total price,” the First Lady said. According to the team of journalists who investigated the story, the home was worth an estimated $7 million.

The Peña Nieto administration has published Rivera’s 2010 income tax papers online

Rivera, who signed a prenuptial agreement with Enrique Peña Nieto, dedicated the first few minutes of the video to an explanation of her economic situation. She said she began her artistic career at 15 and after more than two decades working for Televisa as a soap opera actress she left the company. In 2008, the media group gave her the home at Paseo de las Palmas, 1325 as a gift. In December 2010, once her professional relationship with Televisa had ended, she was given the deeds to the property and 88 million pesos. “I agreed not to work for any other company for five years.”

The Peña Nieto administration has published Rivera’s 2010 income tax papers online. The documents show that she declared 131 million pesos ($9.6 million) in income and 39 million pesos ($2.8 million) in taxes. The Mexican First Lady also said she owns an apartment in Miami, which she purchased in 2005, and another that her mother bought in 2007. “I am making private information public. I am not obligated to do so because I am not a civil servant,” said Rivera, who currently serves as the chairwoman of a government welfare program, the National System for the Comprehensive Development of the Family (DIF), which usually falls under the leadership of the first lady.

Translation: Dyane Jean François

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