Thursday, May 09, 2013 11:51 pm
Mexico's abusive well-heeled get rare comeuppance
By MARK STEVENSONAssociated Press
Federal authorities, meanwhile, suspended four officials in the country's consumer protection agency for allegedly punishing a restaurant that had angered the daughter of the agency's chief prosecutor last month.
Mexicans have long complained about such behavior, but social media have made it easier to document and ridicule people involved, as happened with both incidents, and tolerance for such behavior has dropped.
Police officers, who get little pay and less respect, often bear the brunt of the arrogant, and traffic stops involving politicians' relatives can end with the threatening phrase, "You don't know who you're messing with."
But the city government said it is following a policy of "zero tolerance for impunity" to the long-standing custom of wealthy or well-connected citizens browbeating cops into releasing them.
The pair of women were in a Porsche Boxster, a luxury sports car few Mexicans can afford, when it went out of control early Thursday at a street corner in Mexico City's leafy Roma neighborhood, hitting a parked SUV and a pedestrian.
When police showed up, "both women argued, saying they were related to or knew a public servant in the police department ... and threatened the officers that they would lose their jobs if they tried to arrest them," the city's Public Safety Department said in a statement.
It said officers ignored the threats, took the women in to get medical evaluation and face charges. The city Attorney General's Office said it had to wait for driver of the Porsche to sober up. The pedestrian injured in the crash was taken to a hospital, where she was recovering from her injuries.
Mexicans took to social media and quickly dubbed the two arrested women "The Ladies of Roma" - an echo of another pair of women who were caught on video insulting, threatening and trying to punch officers in the upscale Polanco neighborhood in 2011, earning them the sobriquet "The Polanco Ladies."
In the case involving the federal consumer protection agency, the federal comptrollers' office announced Thursday that it was suspending four civil servants and investigating them for allegedly punishing the restaurant in retaliation for angering the daughter of their boss.
Andrea Benitez, whose father, Humberto Benitez, is the federal attorney general for consumer protection, went to the Maximo Bistrot in the same trendy neighborhood where the Porsche crashed and apparently didn't get the table she wanted or had been promised April 26. Hours later, inspectors showed up with official "Suspended" signs to punish the restaurant, even though the agency never acts that fast on similar complaints from regular citizens.
The action was documented by other diners using smartphones and cellphones, and the incident blew up into an Internet sensation in Mexico.
Local media have also reported in recent weeks on the flashy lifestyle of the children of allegedly corrupt members of the governing Institutional Revolutionary Party, known as the PRI. One story described how the son of an oil workers union leader had bought multimillion-dollar apartments in Miami and a Ferrari even though his father's official salary couldn't pay for anything near that expensive.
The PRI government has taken action against one of the country's powerful, jailing Elba Esther Gordillo, head of the teachers union, on embezzlement charges, but some have noted she was no longer an ally of the party.
Influence peddling, arrogance and illicit enrichment of public officials were common during a seven-decade rule of the PRI, which returned to power on Dec. 1 after a 12-year break, and recent scandals are raising questions about whether the party has changed.
While Humberto Benitez had to offer a public apology for his daughter's behavior, the comptroller's office said it found no evidence of wrongdoing on his part.
And a news conference Thursday, Benitez appeared defiant and old-school, vowing to remain in office. "I never even thought about resigning because I adhere to republican values, and among those values is a cult of personal manliness," he said.