Bad Reviews for Patron at Restaurant in Mexico

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MEXICO CITY -- Andrea Benítez simply did what many rich, connected Mexicans have always done: she used her influence to step on the lower born. Witnesses said that when she was not given the table she wanted on Friday at Maximo Bistrot, a popular Mexico City restaurant, she called in inspectors who worked for her father at the country's main consumer protection agency to shut it down.

"Dreadful service," she wrote on Twitter, before announcing she had arrived at the agency to complain. "They have no manners."

What followed, however, caught much of Mexico by surprise. Instead of enjoying the perks of privilege, Ms. Benítez and her father have become the targets of a broad and swift social media campaign -- with tens of thousands of Tweets condemning them -- that led the president's office on Monday to announce a formal investigation into allegations of abuse of power.

This kind of response, it must be said, is exceedingly rare in Mexico. Murders are routinely ignored by the authorities here, and increasingly by senior officials who would prefer to discuss other topics. But the food at Maximo Bistrot apparently has the capacity to ignite public rage and government action like little else.

To many of its fans, the restaurant is the Chez Panisse of Mexico City, a gastro-paradise of fresh ingredients delivered with innovation for (relatively) affordable prices, in a simple dining room often populated by stars, from Mexican actors to visiting luminaries like Patti Smith. It is one of many new restaurants here that have sought to reinvent Mexican cuisine, taking advantage of both a booming economy and the fact that food is an economic exception -- one of the only industries where Mexico's monopolistic tendencies do not hold sway.

Many of the restaurant's regular patrons said the young Ms. Benítez clearly miscalculated by assuming that all the smartphone owners at dinner would let her get away with such behavior.

"It's such blatant corruption that's right in our faces," said Max St. Romain, 42, a filmmaker who saw the inspectors slap an enormous "suspension of activities" sticker on Maximo Bistrot on Friday night. "It's a connection to the corruption that ruled Mexico for decades -- the fact that a child of someone in power can use it just on a whim, on a tantrum."

Twitter users immediately gave Ms. Benítez a hashtag: #LadyProfeco. Profeco is the abbreviated version of the office that her father directs, and "Lady" referred back to another recent incident labeled #LadiesDePolanco -- when some drunken young women in the posh neighborhood of Polanco were caught on video berating police officers for being "salary men."

As of Sunday evening, Twitter had logged around 42,000 messages referring to #LadyProfeco in every manner of vulgar insult.

Ms. Benítez's father, Humberto Benítez Treviño, eventually apologized, releasing a statement declaring that his daughter had exaggerated, prompting inspectors to overreact.

The Net vigilantism, nonetheless, has not let up. Few of the Benítezes' critics seem to expect a real investigation, so they are again turning to digital outrage and humor. One artist even turned Lady Profeco into a satirical comic book heroine.

"Is there a business that's given you bad service?" she is depicted as saying on the cover. "Talk to me and I'll tell my daddy to shut it down."

world

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


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