Mexico’s political left accused President-elect Enrique Peña Nieto’s campaign manager of using a state government’s bank account to divert funds to the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, in the lead-up to the July 1 election.
“The gathered evidence shows illegal diversion of funds” involving a figure close to Peña Nieto, the campaign manager of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, standard-bearer of a leftist coalition led by his Party of the Democratic Revolution, or PRD, said.
In a press conference in which he showed bank statements and other documents, Ricardo Monreal said the name of Luis Videgaray, Peña Nieto’s campaign manager and former Mexico state finance secretary, appeared on a Scotiabank account held by that state government.
Scotiabank, however, released a statement Thursday night saying that Videgaray was the not holder of the account mentioned by Monreal.
The PRI’s Peña Nieto, who won the election with 38.21 percent of the vote compared with 31.59 percent for Lopez Obrador, based on the final official results released by the Federal Electoral Institute, or IFE, served as governor of the central state of Mexico from 2005 to 2011.
“There’s no justification for a citizen, even less so a campaign manager, to be handling a state government’s public finances,” Monreal said, adding that transactions involving the deposited funds show the money was “diverted.”
He said the Scotiabank account showed an average balance of around 153,000 pesos ($11,420) between February and July, but that elevated sums of money of as much as 250 million pesos (some $18.7 million) were deposited during that same timeframe and then sent out the same day to other accounts.
On Thursday night, however, Scotiabank said in a statement that “regarding the information reported at midday in some media outlets, this banking institution states that Mr. Luis Videgaray is not the holder of the account 03800806935 and is not registered as administrator in the period from January to June 2012, as was reported.”
Monreal said the money deposited into the Scotiabank account came from another account at Bancomer bank, but added that he did not know the name of the account holder and that it was the job of Mexico’s CNBV banking regulator or the Federal Electoral Institute’s auditing unit to determine that information.
The evidence also will be presented to the federal Attorney General’s Office due to “probable crimes of organized crime or money laundering” and to the TEPJF electoral court, which has until Aug. 31 to issue a ruling on the challenge filed by the Progressive Movement coalition, either certifying Peña Nieto the winner or calling for a new vote.
In the press conference, Lopez Obrador said the latest evidence was “just more of the same, because it’s been demonstrated that the PRI and Peña Nieto used billions of pesos, rivers of money ... to try to buy the presidency.”
Progressive Movement alleged on July 18 that the PRI used several front companies to purchase debit cards from Monex bank and handed them out to voters in a bid to secure support for Peña Nieto.
Lopez Obrador’s team said that through that chicanery the PRI exceeded campaign spending limits by a factor of 12.
The PRI also has accused Lopez Obrador’s campaign of wrongdoing, alleging his coalition used grassroots organizations as “parallel structures” to evade campaign finance rules.
Meanwhile, the governing National Action Party, or PAN, whose candidate, Josefina Vazquez Mota, finished a distant third in the presidential election, also has joined with Lopez Obrador in demanding an investigation of the PRI’s finances.
The ruling party approached electoral authorities on June 14 with a request to freeze the PRI’s accounts with Monex bank on suspicion that PRI operatives handed out prepaid debit cards issued by that financial institution in an apparent attempt to buy votes.
The PRI has acknowledged using debit cards to pay party workers, but says it did not enter into any contract with Monex.
National Action, however, has said it is not contesting the election results.
The PRI, which governed Mexico from 1929 to 2000, lost the 2000 presidential election to the PAN and finished third in 2006.
During its 71-year reign - described by Peruvian Nobel literature laureate Mario Vargas Llosa as the “perfect dictatorship” - the PRI relied mainly on patronage and control of organized labor and the mass media, though it was not above resorting to outright vote-rigging and even violence.
Lopez Obrador also said his narrow loss to the PAN’s Felipe Calderon in the 2006 president balloting was marred by fraud.
He declared himself to be Mexico’s “legitimate president” and organized a series of marches over several weeks in Mexico City’s Paseo de la Reforma, one of the capital’s main thoroughfares.
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