Anaya, left, and Fernández: video brought campaign to a halt. Anaya, left, and Fernández: video brought campaign to a halt.

Candidate video ruled improper by court

Prosecutor's office interfered in election by publishing video of presidential candidate

Mexico’s electoral tribunal has ruled that the federal Attorney General’s office (PGR) interfered in the presidential election by publishing a video of candidate Ricardo Anaya at one of its offices in February.

The candidate for the “For Mexico in Front” coalition went to the offices of the organized crime prosecutor (SEIDO) on February 25 to seek information about whether he was under investigation in relation to a money laundering scheme.

During his visit, Anaya and his entourage were recorded by closed-circuit cameras and at one point in the footage the candidate appears to refer to the agency’s anti-money-laundering chief as a “son of a bitch.”

The PGR circulated the video via YouTube and its social media accounts, justifying its release by saying it was in the public interest and did not violate any principles of due process, presumption of innocence or the right to privacy of Anaya and several members of his team.

However, the right-left coalition cried foul, accusing the PGR of conducting a “dirty war” on behalf of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) by making what appeared to be a blatant incursion into the presidential election campaign.

Yesterday, electoral tribunal judges unanimously ruled that the release of the video constituted an improper use of public funds by the federal agency and could influence the election.

The tribunal said that because the candidate is clearly identifiable in the footage, it would generate uncertainty in the electorate and people who watched it could conclude that Anaya is implicated in the investigation of criminal activity.

The judges determined that SEIDO chief Israel Lira Salas and social communication director Rafael Lugo were solely responsible for the wrongdoing, ruling that neither acting Attorney General Alberto Elías Beltrán nor Interior Secretary Alfonso Navarrete Prida had played any part in the decision to make the video public.

The matter will now be passed onto the tribunal’s internal control body to determine what sanctions will be imposed on the guilty parties.

The National Electoral Institute (INE) has already ordered that the PGR remove the video and two associated press releases from its official website and social media accounts.

Anaya remains in second place behind Andrés Manuel López Obrador in most opinion polls published in the lead-up to the July 1 election but according to a National Action Party (PAN) veteran and Anaya campaign advisor, the damage the video caused the candidate cannot be underestimated.

Diego Fernández de Cevallos, the PAN candidate in the 1994 presidential election, said in a radio interview that the PGR decision to disseminate the video brought the candidate’s campaign to “a screeching halt.”

“. . . They didn’t destroy him but his upward trajectory reduced in speed,” he said, before adding defiantly, “in politics, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

Fernández de Cevallos also claimed responsibility for “the son of a bitch comment” and said that it was not directed at a PGR official but rather a summation of the overall situation the “For Mexico in Front” coalition found itself in at the time.

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

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