Mexican Mayor Gives Away Cars to “Promote Tourism”

Hilario Ramírez Villanueva, mayor of the Mexican city of San Blas, courts fresh controversy during Easter weekend with his latest display of generosity.
Hilario Ramírez Villanueva, mayor of the Mexican city of San Blas, courts fresh controversy during Easter weekend with his latest display of generosity. (Nayarit Enlinea)

EspañolHilario Ramírez Villanueva, the controversial mayor of San Blas city, in the northwestern Mexican State of Nayarit, went beyond the giving of chocolate eggs over the Easter weekend — instead giving away four cars during a festival that began on Thursday, April 2, and finished on Saturday. Ramírez is yet to comment on how the cars were paid for.

The festival, organized by local authorities, consisted of dancing and singing competitions, with the winners of the vehicles decided by those who got the loudest round of applause.

“This is one of the four cars that we will give away, as a municipality, for tourism, for singing and dancing. We do it gladly to promote our beautiful town,” the mayor said while unveiling the first car before the festival began.

The unorthodox prize-giving isn’t the first eccentricity of Mayor Ramírez. Last February, he celebrated his 44th birthday by throwing a US$1 million public party, where he danced provocatively onstage with an underage girl.

During his campaign for reelection in 2014, he also confessed to stealing “only a little” from the municipality.

Reputation Management

As festival proceedings kicked off, Ramírez thanked State Governor Roberto Sandoval Castañeda for his support and for donating one of the four cars.

“I called the governor to support us with a car and he did it right away,” said Ramírez, also known by his nickname “Layin.”

Regarding the purchase of the rest of the cars, the mayor claimed that it was “a minimal investment compared to the economic benefits and the world’s perception [of San Blas] generated by this competition”.

Ramírez claimed that local hotel occupancy was at 100 percent, and that the festival would reactivate the whole economy of the city of San Blas.

During a promotional video posted on Facebook, Ramírez boasted that no other city in the country gave away cars in the same way as San Blas, and said that the city’s generosity was boosting its reputation around the world.

In a second video, the mayor is shown driving one of the cars and greeting “the people of San Blas and the people that visit us from the entire world.”

Prior to the event, Ramírez meanwhile did his best to drum up local attendees, visiting nearby cities and on one occasion dancing on a plastic tabletop to the amusement of locals.

The winners of the contest were dancers Pedro Gonzalez Gomez and Claudia Carrillo Gonzalez, and the singer Gerardo Aguilar Macias. The winner of the remaining car is yet to be revealed.

Robin Hood Defense

Ramírez’s previous exploits include giving away tablets for children, providing the money for a child that needed an organ transplant, and throwing bundles of money to the audience while riding a US$250,000 thoroughbred horse into an official engagement in 2008.

His birthday party in February for 25,000 people similarly attracted criticism, for spending the same amount as the entire annual municipal budget for security (MEX $15.9 million). He claimed that “almost everything” had been paid for by his friends, as the municipality was “broke.”

Nevertheless, Ramírez is mostly known for having admitted publicly that he has stolen from the municipality only “a little,” defending himself on the grounds that he redistributed funds to “his poor compañeros.”

“I like money, just as you do, and like everyone does, but I love working. Did I steal from the presidency [municipality]? Yes I stole, yes I stole a little, because it is really poor,” said the mayor in 2014, who first took office in 2008 with 40.32 percent of the city’s vote.

Edited by Laurie Blair.

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