In response to:

Mexico’s ‘Guardian’? from the August 20, 2020 issue

Mexico’s Ruinous Messiah from the July 2, 2020 issue

To the Editors:

In Enrique Krauze’s reply to the excellent letter by Edward Blumenthal and James Cohen [NYR, August 20], he gratuitously libels me and my wife, Irma Sandoval.

He states that “an investigative journalist has revealed that she and her husband, Dr. John Ackerman, both academics, inexplicably managed to accumulate property worth $3 million over the past two decades. Worse still: in her declaration of assets, which is compulsory for all public employees, Sandoval omitted information so as to prevent her fortune from looking too outrageous. A formal complaint against her is before the Secretaría de la Función Pública.”

Sandoval and myself are not worth $3 million; nor did we omit any information in our declaration of assets.

Krauze is referring to the media reports of Carlos Loret de Mola, someone notorious in Mexico for fabricating false news “scandals.” For instance, in 2005 Loret staged the fake capture on live television of an alleged French kidnapper, Florence Cassez, on orders from former federal police chief Genaro García Luna. García Luna is now locked up in New York on drug-trafficking charges.

Indeed, Loret has lost so much credibility in Mexico that he has been reduced to anchoring a YouTube show produced in Delaware. In calling Loret an “investigative journalist,” Krauze is endorsing a paradigmatic creator of “junk news.”

In our own case, Loret did not “investigate” or “reveal” anything. His report merely reproduces, and grossly misrepresents, the very same information originally included in Sandoval’s own assets declaration. The “journalist” invents market values for our house, acquired long before Sandoval became a public servant, and intentionally ignores both the inheritance she received from her deceased father and the financial support I have received over decades from my parents, Bruce and Susan Ackerman, both professors at the Yale Law School.

Many readers of The New York Review may not be aware of the fact that my wife, Irma Sandoval, currently serves in President López Obrador’s cabinet as his comptroller general (Secretaría de la Función Pública). As a consequence, she is playing a central role in his historic crusade against the pervasive corruption that prevailed during the previous administrations of Enrique Peña Nieto and Felipe Calderón.

Krauze’s endorsement of an outrageous “formal complaint” lodged by opposition politicians defending impunity for Peña Nieto and Calderón, and based on junk news reports by a collaborator with Calderón’s notorious police chief, García Luna, marks a tragic moment in the career of a once-respected intellectual.

Dr. John M. Ackerman
Professor, Institute of Legal Research
National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM)
Mexico City, Mexico

Enrique Krauze replies:

I find it striking that neither the letter from Edward Blumenthal and James Cohen nor the letter from John Ackerman makes even the briefest reference to the tragic situation that Mexico is in today. Since “Mexico’s Ruinous Messiah” was published [NYR, July 2] there have been another 330,110 people infected with the coronavirus and the death toll has risen from 29,189 to 61,450. The economy continues to nosedive, with an estimated drop that is no longer 8.4 percent for this year but 9.9 percent, and the number of murders—17,982—in the first half of 2020 marks a twenty-five-year high. But none of this appears to matter to Blumenthal, Cohen, and Ackerman, whose evident purpose is to praise López Obrador’s “anti-corruption crusade.” That it is a crusade is not in doubt. López Obrador has declared, “I’ll put a mask over my mouth when corruption is over.” In the meantime, the numbers of sick people, poor people, unemployed people, deaths, and crimes all pile up.

At the head of the anticorruption crusade is the comptroller general (Secretaría de la Función Pública), Irma Eréndira Sandoval, Professor Ackerman’s wife. My comments regarding the origins of their real estate properties are based on formal accusations made in the Mexican Congress by elected representatives, who have a legitimate interest in the case. The National Action Party (PAN) federal deputy Ernesto Alfonso Robledo Leal filed a complaint at the Secretaría de la Función Pública that Sandoval heads, pointing out inconsistencies between Sandoval and Ackerman’s income and five property acquisitions made within a nine-year period when their income working at the National Autonomous University of Mexico was disproportionately lower than the cost of the properties.1 My comment and concerns also echo allegations by multiple journalists that are in the public domain regarding Sandoval.2 Robledo Leal and the PAN senator Xóchitl Gálvez demanded that Sandoval step down from her position and that an investigation be launched.3 No investigation is yet underway.

Ackerman denies any validity to the accusations because they come from politicians who are “defending impunity for Peña Nieto and Calderón.” I am defending no impunity, not now and not ever. My criticism of both those governments, before this “tragic moment in the career of a once-respected intellectual,” can be found in “Mexico at War” (NYR, September 27, 2012) and in “Confidence in Mexico” (The Nation, March 16, 2016). My criticisms of López Obrador’s political messianism have been public since 2006.4 These are the criticisms for which Ackerman cannot forgive me. And I’m not surprised: he defends Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro’s government on Russia Today,5 applauds López Obrador’s attitude toward Donald Trump,6 and in 2015 granted James Cohen an interview to laud “the new Mexican revolution,” which is now being led—from the trenches of the Palacio Nacional, and with no mask on—by President López Obrador.7