By Juan Montes / Wall Street Journal
A few weeks after taking office as governor of the State of Mexico in late 2005, President Enrique Peña Nieto purchased a property in an exclusive golf club from a businessman who helped transform the sleepy town of Ixtapan de la Sal into a popular resort known for its Roman-style thermal baths.
Roberto San Román Widerkehr, the seller of the weekend residence and developer of an exclusive golf club, also founded a local construction firm that went on to win more than $100 million in public-works contracts during Peña Nieto’s time as governor from 2005 to 2011, according to documents viewed by The Wall Street Journal.
Since Peña Nieto became president in 2012, San Román’s firm has won at least 11 federal contracts, government records show, becoming a national player with business in several states. Before Peña Nieto came to power, the company had never won a contract directly from the federal government.
Peña Nieto’s spokesman denied any relation between the private transaction and the contractor’s success with government contracts. The San Román family didn’t respond to requests to comment. San Román died in 2010 after which his son took over the business.
But the transaction is another example of the extensive personal links between politicians and businessmen from Peña Nieto’s home state that led to accusations by politicians and others of influence peddling that are roiling his administration. The public outcry risks distracting the government from implementing economic overhauls and damaging his party’s support before mid-term elections in June.