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Mexican president apologizes over mansion scandal


President Enrique Pena Nieto's AFP Photo/Thibault Camus)

President Enrique Pena Nieto’s AFP Photo/Thibault Camus)<br />

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto apologized and admitted committing an error on Monday over his wife’s purchase of a $7 million mansion from a government contractor as he signed anti-corruption legislation.

Pena Nieto enacted the new National Anti-Corruption System aimed at fighting what he described as the “social cancer” afflicting Mexico, but he also used the occasion to address a two-year-old scandal.

While he said that he acted according to the law in the so-called “White House” scandal, Pena Nieto said public servants are “responsible for the perception that we create through what we do and, in that sense, I admit that I made a mistake.”

“I felt the irritation among Mexicans. I understand it perfectly. For that reason, I humbly asked them for forgiveness,” said Pena Nieto, whose approval rating has sunk to 30 percent.

The “White House” scandal erupted in November 2014, when a news report found that his wife, former soap opera star Angelica Rivera, had bought the mansion in Mexico City from a government contractor.

Rivera later said she would sell the house and an investigation by an official appointed by Pena Nieto concluded that there was no conflict of interest in the purchase.

The official, Virgilio Andrade, resigned on Monday as public service minister, saying the new anti-corruption law mandates that his job be confirmed by the Senate.

The package of seven laws signed by Pena Nieto establishes stiffer penalties against corrupt politicians, creates an autonomous anti-graft prosecutor and launches a system with oversight from a citizens’ committee.

The citizen-driven initiative is supposed to require politicians to declare their assets and interests, but critics say lawmakers watered down that part with a provision suggesting that information that could affect “private life” could remain private.

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