Voters were herded Saturday to a political meeting as if they were cattle, according to one of those allegedly coerced to attend a meeting billed as a Chiapas lawmaker’s report on his legislative activity.
But some saw the event in Tuxtla Gutiérrez as a political rally for Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) Senator Roberto Albores Gleason, said to have his sights on the governor’s office in the 2018 election.
The Senator gave his yearly report at a ceremony in the state capital’s Victor Manuel Reyna stadium, but local news outlet Chiapas Sin Censura called the event an unofficial announcement of the Senator’s gubernatorial aspirations.
In a report published online early last week, the publication revealed that PRI municipal committees had issued an order to its affiliates to gather a specific number of people to send to Albores’ event.
In the municipalities governed by that party, the order allegedly issued to municipal staff was to attend the event with at least three relatives or friends, and that doing otherwise would put their jobs at risk.
In municipalities governed by representatives of other parties’ government, the carrot was the federal government’s social development program Prospera, the report said. Its benefits were being made conditional on attending the meeting.
On Saturday, reporters interviewed those beneficiaries, mostly women, who confirmed the earlier reports.
“We came forced by Prospera representatives, who . . . gave us a document informing us that if we didn’t come, the benefits would be taken away,” said one.
The beneficiaries were required to remain in the stadium throughout the event by having to sign their names at its conclusion to certify their attendance.
“We were transported like cows,” another attendee offered.
People were transported by bus from several locations in Chiapas: at least 20 departed from the border town of Tapachula early Saturday morning.
In other smaller localities from the municipalities of Berriozábal, Ocozocoautla and Chiapa de Corzo, locals reported that no public transportation was available that day because all the buses had traveled to Tuxtla Guitérrez, carrying attendees to Albores’ meeting.
Chiapas Sin Censura reported that at least 10 million pesos (US $535,000) were allocated by the Chiapas PRI office for the transportation of thousands of acarreados, a colloquial term used to describe people literally herded to political events.
An additional 5 million pesos were used to pay the leaders of social organizations that took their members to the meeting.
A Chiapas Sin Censura reporter was arrested during the rally after being asked not record the event, and attendees were instructed not to speak to him.
Senator Albores has since earned the Twitter hashtag #LordProspera in a satirical commentary on Saturday’s events. Meanwhile, the Social Development Secretariat, Sedesol, is investigating the allegations that the Prospera program was used to lure citizens.