Mexico fires official over daughter's abuse of influence at bistro

2013-05-16T00:00:00Z Mexico fires official over daughter's abuse of influence at bistroThe Associated Press The Associated Press
May 16, 2013 12:00 am  • 

MEXICO CITY - The Mexican government announced Wednesday it has fired an official whose daughter sent inspectors to shut down a restaurant that didn't give her the table she wanted.

It's the latest comeuppance for the wealthy and well-connected who have recently caused anger in Mexico with arrogant behavior in public.

Interior Secretary Miguel Angel Osorio Chong called a news conference to say the government fired Humberto Benitez Trevino as head of the country's consumer protection agency because his daughter got inspectors to punish an upscale Mexico City bistro in late April.

Osorio Chong said that while there was no evidence of wrongdoing by Benitez Trevino, the scandal had "damaged the agency's image prestige."

Earlier, the federal comptroller's office suspended four officials of the agency pending an investigation, saying they had violated protocol by carrying out a lightning raid on the restaurant, when under normal procedures they would not have done so.

The daughter had expressed her anger on social networking sites about not getting the table. Hours later, inspectors descended on the bistro and hung signs on its walls saying it had violated consumer-protection rules. Some diners there at the time tweeted critical reports of the raid, setting off a furor on social media.

Benitez Trevino had apologized for the scandal, but he himself worsened the situation a week ago when he called a news conference to say he wouldn't resign. He 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.

The issue of people trying to use wealth, power or political connections to get out of trouble, or get special treatment, is a longstanding gripe in Mexico.

But in recent years, social media and networking sites have made it easier to document and ridicule such behavior.

President Enrique Peña Nieto's Institutional Revolutionary Party, which ruled Mexico for seven decades before losing the 2000 presidential election, was long known as a haven of cronyism, graft and vote-buying.

The party, which won the presidency back in elections last July, says it has changed.

Osorio Chong said Peña Nieto, with the firing of Benitez Trevino, "is sending a clear message to all public servants in the country … that beyond complying with our duty under the law, we have the obligation to conduct ourselves ethically and with deep professionalism," Osorio Chong said.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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