Was it a political campaign rally or a birthday party? Election authorities suspect the former, the birthday boy was cautious but the evidence suggests it was a bit of both.
The mayor of San Blas, Nayarit, famous around the world for admitting he had only stolen “a little bit” from municipal coffers during a previous term in office, celebrated his birthday Saturday.
The event was typical for Hilario Ramírez Villanueva, also known as “Layín,” whose parties and campaign rallies are big and brash events that adhere to his popular slogan: “un taquito, un traguito y un ruidito,” or “a little bit to eat, a little bit to drink and a little bit of noise.”
Some 10,000 people turned up at Ramírez’ mango packing plant in the Nayarit coastal town, many of them bused in from various other municipalities of the state.
They ate birria, a traditional Jalisco stew that required 100 head of cattle, and a tonne of tortillas. They drank 12,000 beers and danced to the music of two famous singers and at least five bands.
Some have estimated the party cost 5 million pesos, or US $240,000, but Ramírez would not confirm the figure. He said a friend was in charge of the expenses and promised to ask him. In the meantime, the source of the funds was “thanks to God, so many friends, so many donations, they gave us a nice little festival . . . .”
But one hint that this was more than a birthday party came with the arrival of officials from the National Electoral Institute, their visit triggered by denunciations from the leaders of various political parties who saw the event as campaign-related.
The controversial mayor won election (for the second time) in 2014 and has since hinted he might take a run for governor in this year’s election. During her performance, singer Maribel Guardia asked the audience to stick with the mayor because he would soon be making a big leap.
The mayor himself, who shared the stage with the famous singer and 1978 Miss Universe contestant, said only “they won’t stop us,” which he later said was in reference to his work as mayor.
While the “mayor who only stole a little” was celebrating with his 10,000 friends, employees of the municipal government he heads carried on their protest outside municipal headquarters, demanding 15 million pesos in unpaid salaries and bonuses.
The mayor said the funds had not yet been received to make the payments, and blamed previous administrations for the shortfall.
It was Ramírez’ second appearance in the national spotlight in a week. He turned up at Rubí Ibarra García’s 15th birthday party last Monday in La Joya, San Luis Potosí, to present the young woman with a 135,000-peso Chevrolet Spark.
The birthday party became famous after a simple YouTube video invitation intended for friends and family went viral.
Mayor Ramírez was one of at least 30,000 people who turned up for that event.
He explained that he had purchased the car with cash and had an invoice to prove it, while insisting the money did not come from the municipal treasury.