Elections Mexico 2021: The Mexican millionaire who sets fire to the networks

Being a millionaire in Mexico was until now a combination of entrepreneurial ability, political ties and discretion, a lot of discretion. In a country with deep economic inequalities and security problems for fear of kidnapping or extortion, billionaires play at hiding and not showing off more than necessary. The publication of Forbes magazine is an annual toothache from which they cannot escape. If you add poverty to that, discretion has an ethical component. To offend as little as possible in case one day the boomerang of the offense turns against the indicated one. Everything was like that until the irruption of the Mexican businessman Ricardo Salinas Pliego. Since a year and a half took control of their networks Salinas Pliego (Mexico City, 1955) the third richest man in Mexico, after Carlos Slim and Germán Larrea, has turned Twitter into his political platform and into the boxing ring from where he distributes neoliberal recipes, offers lessons on overcoming , he settles accounts with his enemies, criticizes taxes, anticovid measures or, simply, publishes a photo of his yacht where he asks his followers towards which beach the bow points.

From your twitter account, with almost a million followers, Salinas Pliego, owner of companies such as Elektra, dedicated to the sale of home appliances in installments; Banco Azteca, focused on low-income people; o TV Azteca, the second most watched television in the country, has no shame in criticizing losers who do not get up after a failure, those who blame others or prisoners who eat their taxes and do not work. With this strategy, in less than a year he has ceased to be another millionaire to become a media phenomenon that sets the network on fire with each tweet.

Salinas Pliego personally answers many users who applaud him, ask him for advice, complain about an improper charge or dirt in a branch. In the same vein, he can call a fired worker a “stupid”, demand an immediate solution from a senior manager, or make fun of BBVA or Citibank for a system crash. He responds to many with arguments, explanations or, directly, insults accompanied by memes and gifts. It does not matter if it is a simple client or a tax inspection. His digital strategy draws the figure of a decisive leader, who knows people’s problems, demands responsibilities from his subordinates and uses the language of the street. His tweets combine ultra-neoliberal recipes with expressions such as “fuck you hard”, “get down to business” or “deviant”, when they want to attack someone they consider homosexual. During the harshest months of the pandemic, when half the world was confined, it was the only large company that always kept its store doors open.

His last provocation was launched on December 24 when he defended the benefits of inequality as a social engine. “Inequality is not only inevitable, but it is necessary for the progress of society. Attempts to transform society so that everyone ‘fits the same mold’ will inevitably lead to tyranny, “wrote one of the ten richest people in Latin America on Christmas Eve, heir to a conglomerate founded by his grandfather and with a fortune of more than 12,500 million dollars, according to Forbes.

The two phrases of the billionaire made him a trend and the discussion transcended the networks. Although it was not one of his tweets with more likesYes, it was one of the most talked about. The debate arose between those who see in him a successful businessman, creator of 180,000 jobs, who dared to break the tyranny of politically correct discourse and those who reproached him that “without the misery of the majority, the wealth of the minority would not exist “Wrote a user.

For many the message was irritating in a country with 53.3% million poor people and great inequality paid by entrepreneurs like him. According to the economist Gerardo Esquivel, Salinas Pliego – benefited by various privatizations – is part of the “select group” of businessmen who have benefited from the low growth of Mexico in the last two decades. “While GDP per capita grows at less than 1% per year, the fortune of the 16 richest Mexicans multiplies by five,” says Esquivel in the study. Concentration of Economic and Political Power. After the controversial Christmas tweet, Mau Ortíz, a follower, reproached him: “Tweeting from privilege.” “And you from your misery,” replied the businessman.

But beyond the debate on inequality, Salinas Pliego has become a sociological phenomenon that puts an end to the silence and obscurantism that surrounds the great Latin American fortunes. Its ostentation breaks with the tradition of octogenarian fortunes where discretion is a value. The vulgar exhibition of Salinas Pliego contrasts with the silence of the Larrea, Aramburuzabala or Slim, another billionaire who lives a few kilometers from his home. Carlos Slim, 81, the rich among the rich, drives his car, barely has an escort and does not hide that he grew up behind the counter of the family haberdashery or that he studied at the public university (UNAM).

That model fell apart with Salinas Pliego who unashamedly exhibits a profile that combines Friedman’s speech, Trump’s ways and frivolity millennial by Bukele. Precisely Salinas has found in the president of El Salvador, Nayib Bukele, an ally in his evangelizing mission about the virtues of cryptocurrency now that the businessman has landed in the world of Bitcoin. His strategy paid off and the day he announced that his stores would start charging in bitcoin, the price rose 6%.

Apart from the provocative tweet of December 24, Salinas Pliego uses the networks every Tuesday to make literary recommendations to be happy, feel fulfilled or achieve success in business. Among his latest recommendations are Dialogue in Hell between Machiavelli and Montesquieu, by Maurice Joly, o Why does liberalism work? by Nansen McCloskey, and his favorite book is, oh surprise, The Art of War. If it’s Friday, Salinas Pliego writes about the years of whiskey he’s tasting or his dog’s suffering after a helicopter ride.

The ideological liquefied has permeated as a successful formula that places him in many polls as presidential, the outsider Liberal who can save Mexico in the 2024 elections after the statist tsunami of Andrés Manuel López Obrador. There is no tweet that he publishes in which his followers do not always ask the same question: Do you want to be president? He, however, does not rest a day in launching recipes to fix the lives of wage earners, the electoral body (INE), the pandemic or those lacking enthusiasm. His recipes combine economic and psychological advice. Davos with the self-help books.

The successful strategy would seem flawless if it didn’t have two buts. At the national level, he is one of the businessmen who owes the most money to the State in taxes and in terms of his network strategy, it has been discovered that he falsifies likes retweets.

Ricardo Salinas Pliego and the president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, during an event in 2018.
Ricardo Salinas Pliego and the president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, during an event in 2018.Misael Valtierra (CUARTOSCURO)

This month it became known that the entrepreneur’s digital strategy has a trick. In early December, Twitter removed dozens of accounts because they operated as bots to defend Grupo Salinas companies and their owner, the Stanford University Internet Observatory said. The observatory published an analysis in which it found that a large number of these accounts published content in an orchestrated way and that many shared very similar names. The most cited account on the botnet was @RicardoBSalinas and from at least 134 profiles messages of support for the businessman or attacks on critics were launched.

As far as taxes are concerned, the Salinas Group has about 15 open cases with the public treasury (SAT) and is one of the companies most reluctant to catch up on payments, acknowledged Raquel Buenrostro, the implacable official in charge of collection. in the Government of López Obrador, in an interview with EL PAÍS in his office. According to Buenrostro, who evaluated the debt at about 40,000 million pesos, Salinas Pliego is part of the small group of wayward businessmen who have not succumbed to pressure and have repeatedly refused to pay by sending everything to court. To those who demanded in their networks to pay their taxes, he replied: “I am not going to pay a radish “.

His response, however, has not altered his closeness to power in any way and the businessman is part of López Obrador’s group of economic advisers. A relationship in which neither of them sees anything strange.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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