The first lady is a political stakeholder who acts on the public stage with the main goal of helping her spouse and enhancing his public image. She is thus a valuable asset in the presidential communication. Sometimes however, she can be a reason of his unpopularity or very critical media coverage.
It is actually what is happening right now in Mexico. The young president, Enrique Peña Nieto is currently living the worst period of his six-year presidential term and his spouse, Angelica Rivera has played a significant role in this presidential descent. Peña Nieto lost a great part of popular support himself when he did not react in time to the organized by local authorities kidnapping and killing of students from Ayotzinapa on September, 26. He was accused then of a lack of self-criticism and supporting the malfunctioning political system. The “Casa Blanca” gate, authored by his wife, added to this black list corruption accusation.
What you have to know about Angelica Rivera is that she is a TV star in Mexico who plays in a soap opera diffused by the national television. The woman who played on the silver screen a role of a young idealistic woman living in a perfect world, in 2012 became the First Lady of her country. Already during the presidential campaign she actively campaigned for her husband intending to warm up his public image, earning the name of “Mexican Carla Bruni”. The idyll lasted two years until very recently the public opinion discovered that Rivera was the owner of a luxurious mansion worth 7 million dollars. The First Lady had already faced the public discontent in September, when during the official ceremony on the Independence Day she wore an Oscar de la Renta dress. The media in Mexico and abroad asked about the price of the First Lady look. However, the news about the mansion provoked a genuine political earthquake as it revealed unclear relations of the presidential couple with a real-estate company of Chinese origin, Grupo Higa. Various media reported that the said company won several construction contracts in Mexico DF when Peña Nieto was the mayor of the capital and that the president was in a very close relation with the owner of the company. This relation was so close that during the presidential campaign Peña Nieto could count on help of his friend and enjoyed at that time a luxurious building as an alternative headquarter.
After the scandal broke out, Angelica Rivera tried to counteract. She gave an interview, posted on the Internet, where she explained that she decided to explain her publicly to defend the honor of her family. She presented herself as an independent woman and the family’s breadwinner. Following her words, she was able to pay for the mansion thanks to her 10 million$ a year salary of soap opera actress. That claim provoked ire among some soap opera actors who immediately after the First Lady´s interview explained that this was not possible as their salaries were too low to purchase such an expensive estate. Rivera announced that she was going to sell the house to stop the defamation against her family.
The next day the president published a document presenting the statement of his revenues. On a diffrent note, the government announced that the case was under study, however at that moment they did not find any reason to claim a conflict of interests as the contract with Grupo Higa was signed in January 2012, when Piña Nieto did not exert the position of Mexico DF´s mayor. Some days after le Secretary for the Social Development, Rosario Robles, took defense of the First Lady claiming that all the attacks are originated by the fact that Rivera is a successful and rich woman and that Mexico needed a change of mindset.
Despite all those efforts on behalf of the presidential couple, the public opinion turned the back to Peña Nieto. New information about another house of Angelica Rivera in the US reinforced critical voices demanding the president to step out. Peña Nieto´s popularity fell to 39%, making him the most unpopular president in the history of Mexico and his press coverage has become dominated by the question of corruption and power abuse. The current First Lady was also publicly criticized by her Margarita Zavala, the spouse of the former president of Mexico, who asked Rivera to publish information about her financial situation. The soap opera “Dulce Desafío” in which played the First Lady disappeared as well. Following the official version, the series disappears because viewers prefer another soap, however it is difficult not to see any connection between a sudden disappearing of a soap opera and the fall of the First Lady.