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Mexico president fires agency head over restaurant scandal

Mexico president fires agency head over restaurant scandal
Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto fired Humberto Benitez Treviño head of the consumer protection agency.
(Andres Leighton / Associated Press)

MEXICO CITY -- He’s got to be wishing that  his daughter had just ordered takeout and gone home.

The head of Mexico’s consumer protection agency, Humberto Benitez Treviño, was fired Wednesday by President Enrique Peña Nieto, nearly three weeks after Benitez’s daughter sparked a restaurant scandal that made her Internet infamous and sparked a national conversation about the petulance and lingering sense of entitlement of the Mexican ruling classes.

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On April 26, Andrea Benitez Gonzalez tried to score a table at one of Mexico City’s hottest restaurants, Maximo Bistrot, during the Friday lunch rush, even though she didn’t have a reservation. When the staff refused to give her the table she wanted, she threatened to call her father and have the place shut down, according to reports.

Soon, inspectors from the agency, known by its Spanish acronym, Profeco, arrived and alleged that Maximo Bistrot had violated rules regarding reservation policies and the labeling of some of the mescal they served. The daughter, meanwhile, went on Twitter to complain about the lousy service.

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But Twitter, in the main, turned against her. As the news broke, other online commenters dubbed her “Lady Profeco.”  Benitez’s face was inserted into satirical cartoons that imagined her calling her father and demanding that he shut down humble taco stands and popsicle vendors. (link in Spanish)

Suddenly, it seemed, Mexican columnists and taxi drivers were discussing the entitlement culture of the Mexican rich and, in particular, the powerful elites connected to the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, to which Andrea Benitez’s father belongs.

In December, Peña Nieto became the first PRI candidate to be sworn in as president in 12 years. Critics have been concerned that the party, which ruled Mexico in a quasi-authoritarian style for most of the 20th century, aims to turn back the clock, in part by granting favors to a well-connected few.

That criticism appeared to be very much on the mind of Mexican Interior Minister Miguel Angel Osorio Chong on Wednesday when he announced the firing of Humberto Benitez at a news conference. Osorio Chong declared that the although the father “didn’t order or participate in” the incident, Peña Nieto was still letting him go because the case had “tarnished the image and prestige” of the agency.

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“With this decision the president of the republic sends a clear message to all of the public servants of the republic … that we are obliged to act in an ethical manner and absolute professionalism,” Osorio Chong said.

Cecilia Sanchez of The Times Mexico City bureau contributed to this report.

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