In a press conference on Tuesday that was supposed to revitalize Enrique Peña Nieto’s tarnished image, the Mexican president committed a major gaffe, overshadowing any favorable coverage of the event.
After announcing that he was appointing a special prosecutor to investigate allegations of “conflicts of interest” in his administration, including a housing scandal involving him and his wife, the president stepped away from the podium. There was no applause from the reporters in attendance and he jokily complained: “I knew they wouldn’t clap.”
The phrase led to a long series of mocking tweets and generated a new hashtag: #YaSeQueNoAplauden, that spread like wildfire.
“Breaking: Enrique Peña Nieto proposes National Commission for Applauses,” said Jose Aurelio Vargas.
A picture showing the president dressed as Lady Gaga circulated online, under a caption referencing the pop star’s hit single “I Live for the Applause.”
This is not the first time an off-the-cuff remark from the Enrique Peña Nieto administration has generated a storm of negative online content.
Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam caused a similar reaction after complaining: “Ya me cansé” (I’m tired) at a November press conference on the investigation of the kidnapping of 43 students.
The phrase became a battle cry for frustrated Mexicans looking for an end to violence and corruption. “Ya me cansé” is emblazoned on the banners of protesting students and was top trending topic on Mexican twitter for weeks. It received considerable international attention and spawned a counterpart from north of the border: “#UStired2.”
The latest unfortunate remark has only added to an atmosphere of cynicism concerning the president’s announcement at the event.
Outside of Mexico, Peña Nieto’s decision to open himself up to investigation was widely reported as a bold and surprising move. Yet most domestic commentators agree that the new special prosecutor Virgilio Andrade would gain little from damaging his own boss’ reputation. Instead, an independent investigation is seen as necessary.
The press conference reeked of political theater and did little to reassure the public, as Andrade was brought on stage to hug the very man he is supposed to be impartially judging.
El Semanario summed up the paradox nicely: “Virgilio Andrade has a conflict of interest in his investigation of conflicts of interest.”