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World News

Mexican president defends brother hit by cash scandal

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on Friday said footage showing his brother receiving cash was not corruption because the money was for legitimate election funds, but that the prosecutor’s office should investigate the videos.

FILE PHOTO: Mexico's President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador waves as he arrives to hold a news conference at the presidential hangar, with the presidential plane in the background, at Benito Juarez International Airport in Mexico City, Mexico July 27, 2020. REUTERS/Henry Romero/File Photo

The fallout from the videos threatens to damage Lopez Obrador and his government at a time when Mexico is convulsed by a corruption trial of a former state-oil company boss who has alleged graft against previous Mexican presidents.

Lopez Obrador said the money given in the videos to his brother, Pio Lopez Obrador, was “contributed” by supporters to pay for things like gasoline and there was no corruption.

“The aim (of this video) is to damage the image of the government but they will not achieve it,” the president said in his daily morning news conference.

The two videos were published online on Thursday by Mexican news outlet Latinus. They show David Leon, who was an adviser to Lopez Obrador before heading Mexico’s Civil Protection agency, giving cash to the president’s brother.

Leon was slated to begin a new senior job in government focused on purchasing medicine supplies but said on Twitter he would not take up the role until the situation arising from the videos was “clarified.”

Leon added that he was not a public servant until 2018. “My way of supporting the movement was to collect resources among acquaintances to hold assemblies and other activities,” Leon added.

Pio has not yet spoken publicly about the videos.

Lopez Obrador, who won power in 2018 after running on an anti-corruption platform, said the money was used for the 2015 elections in Chiapas state, where his MORENA party was almost entirely unsuccessful and won only one small municipal seat.

When asked if the money was registered as campaign money with authorities, the president said: “I don’t know.”

Lopez Obrador said it was normal for parties to raise money from ordinary people, comparing it to Mexico’s revolutionary times when citizens would contribute money for purchase of weapons.

The videos of Lopez Obrador’s brother come at an awkward time for the president, who has sought to politically benefit from the trial of Emilio Lozoya, the disgraced former head of state-oil giant, Pemex.

Lopez Obrador has cast Lozoya’s trial, the biggest corruption case in Mexico’s recent history, as proof of wide-reaching graft amid the country’s political elite that ruled Mexico previously.

Reporting by Ana Isabel Martinez Galarza; Writing by Drazen Jorgic; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel and Rosalba O’Brien

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