MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Facing conflict of interest accusations over the Mexican first lady’s mansion, President Enrique Pena Nieto disclosed late on Wednesday he owned nine separate real estate properties among his total personal assets worth at least 45.2 million pesos ($3.3 million).
His assets also included financial investments, jewelry and works of art, a document posted on the president’s website showed.
The president said his real estate holdings included four houses, one apartment, and four plots of land.
Those assets were separate from a nearly $4 million Mexico City luxury home, occupied by the First Lady Angelica Rivera, and which she was acquiring from a government contractor bidding for a lucrative high-speed rail contract.
Rivera, a former popular soap opera star, said she was paying for the property with her own earnings, but on Tuesday said she would give it up.
The contractor, Mexican company Grupo Higa, was part of a Chinese-led consortium that won the $3.75-billion high-speed rail contract. That deal was abruptly canceled earlier this month.
Rivera married Pena Nieto in 2010. Also on Tuesday, she said that in that year she was paid severance of 102.8 million pesos ($7.5 million) by broadcaster Televisa.
That payout dwarfed other compensation packages paid out by Televisa that year. Televisa reported to the U.S. Securities and Exchange commission that it paid 98.4 million pesos in 2010 for “retirement and termination benefits” across the entire company.
Televisa said in an e-mailed statement that Rivera’s payout was filed in 2010 as an expense and was not included in the figure given to the SEC on termination benefits for other personnel.
Rivera’s explanation and details of the payout spurred ridicule across social media on Wednesday.
Many users plastered jokes over her image, some suggesting
the payout was way out of line with industry standards. Ana de la Reguera, a former Mexican soap star now working in Hollywood, joked on her Twitter account that she never should have left Mexico.
Rivera said her salary proved she could afford the home, but other social media users said this glossed over whether Pena Nieto had questions to answer.
“The problem was never Angelica Rivera’s patrimony, but the conflict of interest. Her husband is the one who should be facing up to this,” wrote political columnist Jesus Silva-Herzog.
The government canceled the rail contract days before a local news outlet published an investigation into the house.
($1 = 13.6275 Mexican pesos)
Reporting by David Alire Garcia, Noe Torres, Elinor Comlay and Michael O'Boyle; Editing by Simon Gardner, John Stonestreet and W Simon