Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Athletes’ social media videos stir up controversy for Interior Minister

Three names from Mexico’s soccer world sent video greetings on social media to Ministry of Interior and potential Morena presidential candidate Adán Augusto López over the weekend, putting him in danger of violating of federal election rules that prohibit candidates from disseminating campaign-related propaganda before the campaign season’s official start.

Augusto López showed gratitude for the gesture but asked supporters to not repeat such behavior, El País reported.  

Two of the messages sent by the players had one thing in common: they made wordplay with the candidate’s last name, Augusto, which is close in spelling to a gusto, an expression in Spanish that refers to oneself being comfortable or pleased. 

Circula grabación de futbolistas mandando mensajes de apoyo a Adán Augusto López

Giovani dos Santos’ video sending good vibes to Interior Minister Adán Augusto López on TikTok, one of three videos posted around the same time by three famous names in Mexican soccer that caused controversy for Augusto López because it appeared to violate Mexico’s election campaign laws.

Former player for the Mexican national team and now sports commentator Braulio Luna recorded a similar message: “Sending you my regards, we will always be comfortable (a gusto) with you.” 

Club América winger Miguel Layún sent the interior minister this message: “My friend Adán Augusto, sending you a big hug, wishing you all the best for this year. Take care of yourself, and I wish for cool things to come your way.”

Augusto López issued a statement saying that it was not yet the time to use his name promotionally. Both Dos Santos and Layún later said that the messages did not have political intentions. 

In Mexico, it is illegal for candidates to start their campaigns prematurely to obtain an unfair advantage. The constitution also says that politicians already in office cannot do anything to try to influence the people’s electoral preferences. 

Pro-Claudia Sheinbaum for president in 2024 messaging
An example of the kind of messaging that has appeared all over Mexico promoting Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum as the Morena presidential candidate in 2024. (Moisés Pablo Nava/Cuartoscuro)

Mexico’s election campaign laws are strict, but many candidates have tried to get an edge on opponents by violating the ban on early campaigning — in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. Two years ago, the Green Party (PV) was accused of paying influencers to campaign early in various 2021 local elections. In December 2022, Claudia Sheinbaum was also involved in a premature campaigning mini-scandal after supporters across Mexico repeatedly put up flyers, signs and paintings and graffiti on walls that read #EsElla (it’s her) or #EsClaudia (it’s Claudia), basically saying that she should be Morena’s candidate for the 2024 election.

The National Electoral Institute (INE) asked Sheinbaum to put a stop to the campaigning activities. Sheinbaum retorted that the INE was not used to having a woman lead the polls and accused the election oversight body of curtailing people’s freedom of speech. President López Obrador accused the INE of censoring Sheinbaum.

The president himself has run afoul of Mexico’s election laws: in 2021 he was given a warning by the National Electoral Institute (INE) for speaking about matters related to “achievements and actions of the government,” during his daily press conferences that “could be classified as government propaganda” during the midterms election season.

Augusto López, although he was named by President López Obrador himself as a likely Morena candidate, remains behind Sheinbaum and Secretary of Foreign Affairs Marcelo Ebrard in the polls. Sheinbaum was the frontrunner for several months, but in a recent newspaper poll, Ebrard was named by Morena voters as their preferred candidate.  

Mexico’s presidential election will take place on June 2, 2024, with campaigns to win nominations (known in Mexico as pre-campaigns) starting in December 2023. The nominated candidate campaigns occur between March and May 2024. 

With reports from El País.

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