The National Electoral Institute (INE) has rejected an application to register a political movement created by former president Felipe Calderón and his wife Margarita Zavala as a political party due to questions over its funding.
Seven members of the INE general council voted against the registration of México Libre (Free Mexico) while four voted in favor.
The general council said that it rejected the application because more than 5% of México Libre’s funding came from “unidentified people.”
INE President Lorenzo Córdova said before Friday’s vote that the presence of “opaque money” among the would-be party’s resources was sufficient reason to reject its registration. He said later that there were questions about 8.2% of México Libre’s funding.
The decision to reject the movement’s application – effectively blocking it from contesting the 2021 midterm elections – can be challenged before the federal electoral tribunal, recourse México Libre said it would take immediately.
“Contrary to the law and without any foundation, the INE general council today rejected the registration of México Libre. … We will immediately challenge this absurd resolution,” the organization said on Twitter.
On the same social media platform, Calderón, president of Mexico from 2006 to 2012, rejected INE’s claim that some of the movement’s funding came from unidentified sources. The donations in question were made via the online payment platform Clip and the identity of the people who made them is known by the INE, he said.
“You’re lying, Lorenzo Córdova. Each and every one of our donors is perfectly identified. You know it, you hid it. It’s a day of shame for you, for INE and for the memory of Arnaldo, who would be ashamed of your decision,” Calderón wrote on Twitter.
Arnaldo is Córdova’s late father, who was an academic and served as a federal deputy in the 1980s.
Calderón said that México Libre had submitted all its donation receipts to the INE as well as documents that identified its donors.
The ex-president also said that the INE decision wouldn’t stop México Libre from pursuing its political ambitions.
The rejection of its application to be registered as a party came after the INE fined México Libre 2.3 million pesos (US $106,400) for irregularities related to donations it received. In handing down the fine, the institute said the movement had received more than 1 million pesos in funding from unidentified persons.
In a video message posted to social media, President López Obrador praised the decision to reject México Libre’s registration as a party, describing it as a “triumph of the people of Mexico.”
Speaking from his ranch in Palenque, Chiapas, the president said that Catholics and evangelicals who support his government would say that the decision against Calderón’s political movement is “divine justice” while non-believers would describe it as “earthly justice.”
“Skeptics” would say the INE decision was a “dirty trick” because the electoral tribunal will later overturn it, ensuring that México Libre is registered as a political party, López Obrador said.
“They surely hold that … if Felipe [Calderón] stole the presidency of the republic [López Obrador claims that he was the rightful winner of the 2006 election], how will he not able to register a political party if he’s used to succeeding without moral scruples of any kind,” he said.
But the president said he believed that “things have changed” in Mexico and the country is now living through “other times” and “new circumstances.”
López Obrador advised Calderón, with whom he has long had a testy relationship, to summon “friends” who helped him in the 2006 election, including powerful businessman and sections of the media, to “go out to the streets to peacefully protest” the INE decision.
The president himself protested alleged fraud at the 2006 election by convening massive street demonstrations in Mexico City.
Apparently speaking tongue in cheek, the president told Calderón that if he fails to find justice in Mexico, he has the option to take his case to “his friends” in the Organization of American States in Washington D.C.
López Obrador said that Calderón shouldn’t take his case to New York even though the United Nations is located there because that’s where his security minister Genaro García Luna is awaiting trial on charges he colluded with and accepted bribes from the Sinaloa Cartel.
The president asserted a month ago that Mexico was a narco state during Calderón’s administration given evidence that has emerged against García Luna.
In response to López Obrador’s video message, Zavala – who launched a bid for the presidency in 2018 but withdrew from the race 1 1/2 months before the election – highlighted that she leads México Libre, not her husband.
She said in a Twitter message that she was unsurprised that the president had referred to México Libre as Calderón’s party given his record of “detracting women.”
Zavala said the movement she leads is made up of more than 250,000 Mexicans who “must be respected” and claimed that López Obrador had confessed to pressuring the INE and is now threatening the Electoral Tribunal.
“With you [as president], democracy loses [and] Mexico loses,” she wrote.
In a subsequent video conference with México Libre supporters, the former first lady – who many people believe is planning to run for the presidency again in 2024 – said that donations to the would-be party were made with credit cards and via bank transfers to avoid “envelopes and bags.”
The remark was a reference to two videos that surfaced last month in which the president’s brother, Pío López Obrador, is seen receiving large amounts of cash in an envelope and paper bag.
The money, handed over in 2015 by a Chiapas government advisor who became Civil Protection chief in the López Obrador administration, was apparently donations for the now-ruling Morena party, which the president founded in 2014.
Zavala also claimed that there is an “operation” within the federal government to stop México Libre. For his part, Calderón has claimed that the political movement he co-founded with his wife will become the sole alternative to Morena.
Speaking at the movement’s national assembly in February, the ex-president asserted that México Libre will restore balance to Mexico’s political landscape and provide people with a “different option” at the ballot box.
México Libre will be the only party that “can save our beloved Mexico,” he claimed.