The governor of Veracruz has fired three officials after accusations that the distribution of aid to people affected by Hurricane Katia had been politically tainted.
Miguel Ángel Yunes Linares denied any involvement in or prior knowledge of the alleged politicization, in which food aid was handed out in plastic bags emblazoned with a logo in the blue and white colors of the National Action Party (PAN) that Yunes represents and bearing the name of the organization that provided the aid, Yunete.
Written in the same font and style that Yunes used in his electoral campaign last year, Yunete would appear to be a blend of the governor’s surname and the Spanish “únete,” meaning “join up” although its founder asserted that it doesn’t have any direct association with the governor.
Written beneath the organization’s name was the slogan, “In support of the affected civilian population.”
When images of the aid bags began circulating on social media many were skeptical that Yunes wasn’t somehow complicit.
“Before it was AyuDuarte now it’s Yunete. They’re the same,” one person wrote on Facebook, referring to an organization created by former governor Javier Duarte, the name of which implied “help from Duarte.”
Others recalled “Fidelidad por Veracruz,” another play on words used in the name of yet another organization, one created by Duarte’s predecessor, Fidel Herrera, and roughly translates as “loyalty for Veracruz.”
“The term ‘shameless’ fits Yunes like a ring on a finger,” chimed in actor Diego Luna on Twitter.
At a press conference after the scandal broke, Yunes distanced himself from any involvement saying that he neither ordered nor was aware of the aid’s political branding and he condemned its use.
He said that he personally had not been involved in handing out the packages precisely because he wanted to avoid any perception that it was politically motivated.
Yunes fired a water commission director in Coatzacoalcos, a local delegate from the state capital Xalapa and a university rector from Nanchital. Meanwhile, the Special Prosecutor for Electoral Crimes (Fepade) announced that it had opened an investigation into the case.
“By removing them from their positions it allows them to be investigated . . . if they committed any crime they will be severely punished,” Yunes said.
If found guilty, the former officials could receive sentences of between two and nine years’ imprisonment.
Turning aid distribution into a political tool has also become an issue in Oaxaca.
The president of the state branch of the Mexican Employers Association (Coparmex) warned politicians, organizations and those aspiring to elected office not to use the tragedy caused by last week’s earthquake for political or personal gain.
Social networks have been saturated by images of politicians and government officials handing out aid, some of whom have been accused of putting in an appearance purely for political purposes.
Instead, Raúl Ruiz Robles called for sensitivity and solidarity in the aftermath of the disaster.