Last week I promised myself not to write anymore about National Sports Commissioner (Conade) Alfredo Castillo, who had turned in his resignation to President Enrique Peña Nieto due to the poor performance of the Mexican Olympic delegation in Rio. It was time for a change.
But Friday, President Peña Nieto announced that he was not only not accepting commissioner Castillo’s resignation, but on the contrary, he alleged that, contrary to what everyone has been saying, Castillo “does know about sports.”
Some said that, in Mexico, whatever the president says is right. In fact, it reminded me of an old joke. The president asks an assistant, “What time is it?” The assistant responds: “Whatever time you say it is, Señor Presidente. That’s the right time.”
But if President Peña Nieto had accepted Castillo’s resignation, as demanded by throngs of deputies and senators, as well as sports pundits in the press and the now popular social media, it would have been interpreted that Peña Nieto was wrong from the start for appointing Castillo to lead Conade. Well, he was, but now he adamantly stated he wasn’t; Castillo is a sports expert.
That means that Mexico’s sports federations are stuck with Alfredo Castillo until the president leaves office on Nov. 30, 2018.
But right away the Chamber of Deputies’ Sports Committee asked Castillo to visit them to explain what happened in Rio with his highly publicized presence and the scant amount of medals and to give an excuse for the $2.8 billion peso budget Conade got for 2016.
The appearance at the Chamber of Deputies came surrounded by yet another scandal as muckraking magazine Proceso published a list of several “aviator” friends of Castillo who were getting salaries at Conade higher than the sports people. An “aviator” in Mexican political slang is a person, usually a friend of the boss, who gets placed in the budget and attends every month to get a check for not working.
That was an issue that was not mentioned in the highly controlled “chat” — not financial report. Castillo and several athletes accompanying him did quite a bit of the talking trying to make it clear that the poor performance of a national Olympic delegation is nothing new and that in fact, Mexico has never done well at the Olympic Games.
First of all he apologized for inviting his girlfriend to the Olympics. Gossip in Proceso magazine says that she dumped him when her name became a trending topic on social media and was seen as a freeloader. Inviting her, Castillo said, “was a personal matter.” He added he was sorry that press coverage of the Mexican Delegation attending the Rio Olympic Games focused more on him and his small entourage — court, some said — instead of the competing athletes.
Of course, the comment on this is that with no medals his romantic antics were more visible than the motive of the trip.
The invitation to the girlfriend and a personal masseur — paid for with public money — led a large number of sports writers to see Conade as “a travel agency,” as he had called it before.
But Castillo reiterated that when he called Conade “a travel agency” that paid for the travellers’ expenses, he was not referring to his entourage but to the many sports federations.
“The sports federations have only sought that the organization [Conade] pays for their international travel fees without any accountability.”
This point, in fact, became the center of attention for deputies, as Castillo and athletes accompanying him blamed not getting more medals — Mexico got three silvers and one bronze — on the fact that the federations’ leaders withheld funds from them.
Castillo added that every time he tried to interfere with fund management, particularly with the field, swimming, archery and boxing federations, they told him he “couldn’t butt in” in how they managed their funds, as they are indeed independent from Conade, which is there to supply funds.
Castillo also apologized for behaving “with frivolity” and “imprudently” in Rio.
This is not the end of the story as Conade has still to present a financial statement to the Federal Auditing Office, but by the time it does, the Rio Olympics will be forgotten, and hopefully, so will Alfredo Castillo’s name despite the presidential blessing which would like Mexicans to believe that this dude is a sports expert.
Well maybe he wasn’t, but since he ain’t dumb, perhaps he learned a trick, or two.