Thursday, December 7, 2023

Authorities accused of tying recall vote to social program payments

Two women in Chiapas died on their way to vote in President López Obrador’s recall vote on Sunday, and citizens from their town accuse municipal authorities of pressuring people to travel to polling stations to vote in the president’s favor.

Citizens from Nueva Victoria, in the San Fernando municipality, said municipal worker Iván López Aquino arrived in town at 7 a.m. on Sunday to warn residents to vote to ensure they maintain their social program payments from pensions and from the Sembrando Vida (Sowing Life) tree-planting program.

“A lot of people were afraid because they depend on the support,” one local man said.

The citizens said the municipal government brought a pickup truck to take some local people to vote and that López kept a list of those who went. On the way to San Fernando, two hours down a dirt road from Nueva Victoria, the vehicle transporting 35 people fell some 100 meters into a ravine, killing the two women and injuring 13 other people, including a one-year-old baby who went into a coma.

One local woman, Odilia Girón López, said that some of the injured people weren’t provided with medicine or medical attention.

funeral in Nueva Victoria, Chipas
Hundreds of residents attended the funeral of Petrona Vázquez González and Lesbia Hernández Pérez, who died in the vehicle accident. Twitter

Angry people from the community took a San Fernando municipal official hostage, demanding to see San Fernando Mayor Antonio Castillejos. The mayor is a member of the Ecologist Green Party (PVEM), an ally of the Morena party. He is also being investigated by the Chiapas state auditor’s office for the suspected embezzlement of 17 million pesos in municipal funds, the newspaper Diario de Chiapas reported in February.

“If it was all right for them to come for people at 7 a.m., it’s also fine for him to come and show his face,” a local man said.

Relatives of the women were angered further by Castillejos’ attempts at compensation. They were given 15 chickens, three kilograms of rice and a few kilograms of corn dough, they said.

A total of 7,455 votes were cast in the seven polling stations in San Fernando on Sunday, and 95% of those were in favor of López Obrador remaining president. The seven stations had an average turnout of 29.7%, higher than the national average of 17.8%.

Meanwhile, another pickup truck crashed on the way to voting booths in Chiapas on Sunday. Three people from the town of Cruz de Piedra died on the way to Siltepec, but there have been no claims that they were pressured to vote by authorities.

The president called the democratic exercise a “complete success” after more than 90% voted in his favor, despite turnout falling far below the 40% needed to make the result legally binding.

López Obrador said he was considering a proposal to lower the minimum threshold required in such votes to 20%.

With reports from Proceso, Diario de Chiapas and Reforma

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