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From left, INE chief Lorenzo Córdova, Baños and Murayama. From left, INE chief Lorenzo Córdova, Baños and Murayama.

Election authority fines Morena 197mn pesos; AMLO calls it ‘despicable revenge’

It claims a trust for earthquake victims broke campaign finance rules

“Despicable revenge” is what president-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador called a decision by electoral authorities to impose a 197-million-peso (US $10.3-million) fine against his political party for breaking campaign finance rules and vowed to appeal.

The National Electoral Institute (INE) voted 10-1 Wednesday to fine Morena for irregularities relating to a trust it set up to help earthquake victims.

According to the INE, the party didn’t report forming the fund called “For the Others” and didn’t declare where money taken out of the trust went.

“Morena created a trust to take money to people [affected by the earthquakes] and from the beginning it was irregular. There is no proof that the people received the money . . .” INE official Ciro Murayama said.

He also said that “the aim of the trust — to give the population money — is illegal for a party.”

In total, the INE said, Morena collected 78.8 million pesos (US $4.1 million at today’s exchange rate), which was deposited in the trust in cash and through checks and bank transfers.

Up to May 31, 64.5 million pesos were withdrawn from the trust through cashier’s checks but that money cannot be tracked, the INE said.

A total of 56 people with links to Morena, including lawmakers and candidates, received the checks at banks, violating rules for the lawful management of party funds.

“Tolerating this conduct would imply breaking the rules of fair play . . . [and] allowing opacity and the use of large amounts of money of unknown origin, which would put democratic competition at risk,” Murayama said.

López Obrador responded to the fine yesterday on his Twitter account.

“The fine imposed by the INE on Morena for 197 million pesos is a despicable revenge. There is no immoral act with the trust for the victims of the earthquake,” he wrote.

“We are not corrupt nor did we commit an unlawful act. Conversely, they [the INE] are seeking to stain a humanitarian action. We will go to court.”

A statement issued under the trust’s name also charged that the fund had been managed lawfully and that the money withdrawn was distributed to earthquake victims.

As of July 17, trust funds have been distributed to 27,288 earthquake victims, the statement said.

Morena president Yeidckol Polevnsky reiterated that position in a radio interview and rejected that the money had been used to finance the campaigns of party candidates who contested the July 1 elections.

“A list of people harmed in the most affected areas of Mexico City, Morelos, Oaxaca and Puebla was made . . . We couldn’t give them a [new] house or repair their homes but we could help a little so they had financial support that would benefit them,” she said.

In response to López Obrador’s characterization of the fine, electoral councilor Marco Antonio Baños said: “This is not about despicable acts, it’s about evidence, it’s about proof and it’s about documents.”

He stressed that the INE hadn’t conducted a so-called “fast track” or improvised investigation and that it had the evidence to back up the penalty it imposed.

He also said the issue would have no effect on the election results.

In a radio interview this morning, Baños said there was no possibility that the presidential election result would be annulled.

López Obrador, who made fighting corruption central to his pitch to the electorate, won the presidential election in a landslide and the Morena party-led coalition he heads also won majorities in both houses of federal Congress.

The INE began its investigation into the trust after receiving a complaint from the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which suffered a heavy defeat on July 1.

The electoral body also fined the PRI 36.5 million pesos (US $1.9 million) for deducting money from government employees in 2015 that was funneled into the party’s treasury in Chihuahua.

The National Action Party (PAN) didn’t escape being fined either. It was ordered to pay 3 million pesos (US $157,000) for accepting donations from private companies during the campaign period, which is not permitted under electoral rules.

Source: El Financiero (sp), Milenio (sp)

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