“Mafia of power”, “looters” and “rapacious minority” are adjectives that the president dedicates Andrés Manuel López Obrador to the entrepreneurs of Mexico, except for one of them: Carlos Slim, the richest in the country.
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The leftist president, who came to the presidency of Mexico in 2018 promising to break with “neoliberalism”, described this Monday who was once the richest man in the world as his “friend” and “a good businessman who contributes to the development of the country ”.
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López Obrador made a space in his December schedule to have breakfast with Slim at the National Palace. He highlighted the fiscal civility of América Movil, the largest telecommunications firm in Latin America and flagship of the Slim empire.
“América Móvil sold a subsidiary in the United States and they paid in Mexico, on December 16, 28,000 million pesos to the Public Treasury,” about 1,350 million dollars, López Obrador wrote on Twitter along with a photo with the 81-year-old businessman and with an estimated fortune of 83,000 million dollars.
But the relationship goes further. López Obrador gave Slim a stake in the Maya tourist train, one of his emblematic projects, and the magnate’s foundation supported the manufacture of the AstraZeneca covid-19 vaccine in Mexico.
Slim’s construction company, Carso, built the section of the capital’s Metro that collapsed last May, killing 26 people. And the businessman promised to pay for the reconstruction in full.
Grupo Carso told investors that the cost would be around 800 million pesos (about 38 million dollars), no more than 1% of its total sales.
López Obrador has a long-standing relationship with Slim. When the leftist was mayor of Mexico City (2000-2005), the businessman invested in the remodeling of the historic center.
“They have been getting along for 20 years,” explains former Foreign Minister Jorge Castañeda. “López Obrador is too cunning to face the most powerful man in Mexico.”
– “We have to be realists” –
But the relationship between the politician and the tycoon was not always smooth.
Upon reaching the presidency, López Obrador canceled the construction of a new airport for Mexico City, prompting fierce questions from Slim, whose consortium was participating in the work.
“This issue of the airport was a watershed in their relationship,” columnist Mario Maldonado explains to AFP, although there was not a complete breakdown. “The relationship is institutional,” says a person close to the tycoon.
“Slim is one of these businessmen who is a little above all political conflicts,” says Maldonado. “He has known how to relate to everyone; I mean high-ranking presidents and politicians. “
Slim rose to the fore in business when he bought Telefonos de México (Telmex) from the state in 1990, during the government of former President Carlos Salinas de Gortari, one of López Obrador’s biggest rivals.
“It is true that Telmex was a delivery from Carlos Salinas to Carlos Slim,” says Jesús Ramírez, spokesman for López Obrador. “But at the same time you have to be realistic when it comes to the exercise of government.”
The spokesperson details that in addition to Slim, López Obrador has a good relationship with other representatives of the private sector such as Larry Fink, CEO of BlackRock, the world’s largest asset management firm.
– Slim and the others –
But in contrast, López Obrador has had clashes with many other businessmen.
The leftist rarely mentions his “adversaries” by name, as he calls them. And he tends to criticize specific sectors, as in October when he attacked businessmen who say they are supporters of clean energy.
“They are white-collar criminals, looters, who cheated with clean energy to do dirty business,” he said then.
Among the groups frequently mentioned by the president are the Employers’ Confederation of the Mexican Republic (Coparmex). A “body that acts more like a sector of the PAN (conservative party, opposition) than as a true business representation”, writes the president in his latest book “Halfway through the road.”
On the contrary, Slim and other businessmen “respect the presidential inauguration, they are not so passionate about electoral matters and although they do not agree with us, they act prudently,” he adds in the text.
“Slim has a good social image and I think this brings him closer to President López Obrador in the sense that he is not the typical profligate millionaire who has luxuries everywhere,” says Maldonado.
The analyst Denisse Dresser has nevertheless criticized the closeness between the two, calling it an example of “buddy capitalism”. “López Obrador celebrates it instead of changing the rules,” Dresser said on Twitter.
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