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Mexico's Green Party Offered Illegal Cash to Sports Stars for Support on Social Media

The scandal-ridden Green Party said it had nothing to do with supportive messages sent by Mexico's national soccer coach and others, which is illegal under electoral rules. Rival parties cry foul.
June 10, 2015, 7:45pm
Imagen vía Nelson Antoine/AP

A Fox Sports newscaster in Mexico said he was offered $13,000 dollars by Mexico's Green Party to tweet in support of its candidates during a three-day ban on campaigning ahead of last Sunday's election.

Fox host Jean Duverger — who has more than 244,000 followers on his verified Twitter account — said in a radio interview on Tuesday that he had been offered almost $200,000 pesos by his PR agency to publish three tweets in favor of the Green Party.

"[I told these people] that I'm not involved with politics, but as their calls became more insistent, they offered me more money. The last time they offered me like $200,000 pesos [$13,000 dollars] for three tweets," Duverger told W Radio in Mexico City.

He said he rejected the offer, but at least 24 others media and pop figures as well as football players took to Twitter to demonstrate support for the Green Party last weekend, in violation of Mexico's strict electoral laws.

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The revelation re-ignited outrage at Mexico's institutions for once again showing an inability to clamp down on the scandal-ridden Partido Verde Ecologista de Mexico, or PVEM, and its infringements of election rules.

Mexican political parties are barred from engaging in any form of campaigning as of the Thursday before the customary Sunday voting, supposedly to give voters time to think and mull over their choices. However, Mexico's national soccer team coach and several players sent out tweets up to the June 7 vote with phrases that sounded awfully like scripted Green Party campaign slogans.

"Support the national team," coach Miguel Herrera, who has 1.36 million followers, tweeted at 9 am on the morning of election day. "Don't forget to vote, we're with the greens."

Mexico's national football squad played Brazil in a friendly match on Sunday, so some took the tweet to make a reference to the national team, which uses green uniforms.

Apoyemos a la selección.No dejen de votar, vamos con los verdes

— Miguel Herrera (@MiguelHerreraDT)June 7, 2015

But Herrera later sent out another message for the Greens, using a phrase that was ubiquitously plastered all over Mexican cities for months with the party's jarring black-and-neon green propaganda: "The Greens deliver."

National footballers Marco Fabian and Oribe Peralta also took to social media to praise the party's proposals for "the children," and said they wanted a "Green Mexico." The messages raised more anger in public, as the team and its members often achieve hero status in Mexican society and are looked to as examples of good behavior.

The Mexican Football Federation said it would open an investigation on the three men, to determine if their tweets violated their professional ethics rules.

The National Electoral Institute, or INE, also responded, but the agency simply ordered on Sunday that celebrities stop all signs of support on social networks for the Green Party while voting was still taking place.

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The Green Party, not surprisingly, said it had nothing to do with it. Arturo Escobar y Vega, the party's spokesman, said that the sports celebrities tweeted because they wanted to, and denied that any figures had been paid for doing so.

"We can't ask them to stop doing something that we did not ask them to do," Escobar y Vega said. He then accused the INE of trying to silence the citizens' freedom of speech.

Rival groups including the parties known as PAN, PRD, and the National Regeneration Movement, or Morena, demanded a thorough investigation on the Greens for the celebrity tweets.

Ines Sainz, another sports anchor in Mexico, did send out messages in support of the PVEM during the campaign blackout period, but later said she was tricked by her PR agency into tweeting for the Green Party.

Sainz said she does not support the party and always tries to keep herself away from politics. "They told me that it was for a campaign advocating for computation skills, English language and student development," the anchor told the Reforma newspaper.

Despite the messages by social-media rock stars, the Green Party obtained 7.06 percent of the votes for the lower house of Mexico's Congress last Sunday.

In contrast, the newly created, grassroots Morena party beat the Greens in the lower house in their electoral debut, getting 8.37 percent of the vote.

Related: Mexico Is Having Its Most Depressing Election in Recent History