07/06/2012—El Universal reported this morning that Mexico’s presidential runner-up, Andrés Manuel López Obrador (often referred to as AMLO), has presented 3,500 gift cards from the chain store Soriana as evidence that the winning candidate Enrique Peña Nieto’s party, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (Partido Revolucionario Institucional, PRI), “bought millions of votes” in recent federal elections. PRI Campaign Manager Ricardo Monreal Ávila stated that the majority of the cards were collected in conjunction with “testimony on vote buying, which will be presented to the appropriate authorities.”
Such testimony may include stories such as those uncovered by Red Politica, whose reporters interviewed one housewife named Elvira who received a 100 peso ($8 USD) gift card last Friday from people who “said they worked for PRI.” She then exchanged it for “a kilo of tortillas, half a kilo of sausage, a quarter kilo of turkey-ham, a few rolls, a pastry, [and] a box of cereal.”
Speaking in front of a wall covered with the colorful plastic cards at a press conference, López Obrador called for Mexico’s Federal Electoral Institute (Instituto Federal Electoral, IFE) to take action in light of what he referred to as various complaints and evidence of dishonest operations, and the overall lack of transparency of the elections. The frustrated presidential candidate maintained that, although the cards he produced had all been given out in the State of Mexico (Estado de México, Edomex), similar cards “were given out in other states, as well as cash, groceries, construction materials, and home appliances.” His organization, he elaborated, is in the process of preparing their estimate of the number of votes that the PRI illegally purchased with such supermarket gift cards.
López Obrador made these cards public after yesterday’s announcement by the PRI that, in reaction to the vote buying accusations, it would file a formal complaint with the federal Attorney General’s Office (Procuraduría General de la República, PGR) against López Obrador and his Progressive Movement coalition (Movimiento Progresista) for fraud and related crimes. In response, López Obrador asserted that he was acting in complete accordance with the law. “Nobody can say we are violating the law,” he explained, because “we are making use of our constitutional rights” by “defending the votes of the many citizens who voted for true change, who don’t want money to rule.”
Lopéz Obrador also spoke of his disappointment with the National Action Party (Partido Acción Nacional, PAN)–which is the party of Mexico’s current president, Felipe Calderón– for not speaking out in favor of “cleansing” the election process. He also reiterated his frustration with the IFE for not conducting a full recount of elections votes, instead re-tallying results from only 54% of polling stations.
Responding to these accusations, IFE announced today that it will require Soriana, the country’s second largest retail chain, to release detailed information on its customer loyalty programs in order clarify the situation. IFE is requesting personal data on all purchasers of electronic gift cards during the relevant time frame, together with the terms of purchase. Soriana is an establishment analagous to Target that sells groceries and home goods.
Soriana’s director of investor relations, Rodrigo Benet, denied any relationship between the retailer and PRI political campaign, and affirmed that his company is “providing [the IFE] with all of the information they are requesting.” IFE official Benito Nacif, president of the Complaint Commission, reports that the IFE is, nevertheless, pursuing an investigation of any links between the two entities.