Robin Hood, Robin Hood, riding through the glen – I bet you’re all humming now. And even though historians have suggested that our Robin was not quite the champion of the poor we choose to believe, the legend persists – even as far away as Mexico. On 13 May 2019 Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (known as AMLO – which pleases me as it’s also the acronym for the FIUs of Croatia and Thailand) announced his intention to create a “Robin Hood” institute to return to the people the ill-gotten gains seized from corrupt politicians and gangsters. “Let’s quickly return to the people everything that’s been stolen”, he said, adding that his vision is to create an independent institute that will put confiscated goods such as property, jewellery and cars into the public’s hands. For example, he suggested, the institute could assign seized homes to municipalities to be used as schools, hospitals or old folk’s homes.
Veteran leftie AMLO certainly walks the walk: since taking office in December 2018 he has cut salaries for top civil servants and rolled out a clutch of welfare programmes for the poor and the elderly. He has put his predecessor’s private plane up for sale, while he flies economy class or drives his white Volkswagen Jetta. Two cars and an ambulance donated by the King of Jordan will be gifted on to the National Guard, a new security force. And he has converted Los Pinos – the former presidential mansion in Mexico City – into a cultural centre.
AMLO is not letting the grass grow under his feet. Indepuro (el Istituto para Devolver al Pueblo lo Robado – or the Institute to Return Stolen Goods to the People) is already up and running, under the leadership of Ricardo Rodríguez Vargas, and on 26 May it held an auction at Los Pinos to sell off 77 luxury cars (including Porsches, Corvettes, Mercedes-Benzes, a Ford Mustang convertible, a Mini Cooper, a Ford Shelby and a 2007 Lamborghini Murcielago) seized from criminals, with the proceeds going to two poor towns in the southern state of Oaxaca. The Lamborghini was the hot ticket item, selling for 1.47 million pesos [about £60,500], while a 1951 Volkswagen Beetle (built in the Mexican city of Puebla) went for 253,000 pesos [about £10,420]. In total the auction raised about £1.2 million. Coming under the hammer in future Indepuro auctions are three homes (one seized from a corrupt politician) worth at least US$7 million (proceeds to go to a youth drug rehabilitation programme) and jewellery seized from organised crime groups (proceeds to go to communities in the mountains of Guerrero state, where many impoverished families grow the only crop they can: opium poppies). If this continues, AMLO certainly will be feared by the bad, loved by the good.
Just to let you know that I’m off on holiday for a bit – cycling from Hook of Holland to Basel, for some reason now forgotten and regretted – so I won’t be posting now until Wednesday 19 June, and then only if I can sit on a chair to type.