MEXICO CITY - Mexico’s electoral authorities imposed a $10 million fine Wednesday on President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s party for fraudulently using money from a trust fund for earthquake victims in its campaign.
The National Electoral Institute ruled the anti-establishment leftist’s Morena party broke the law by raising 78.8 million pesos ($4.1 million) for victims of the September 19 earthquake that devastated central Mexico, killing 360 people and causing scores of buildings to collapse.
It is unclear how much of the money actually went to earthquake victims. And even if it did, political parties are not allowed to give money to the public, the electoral institute said.
Lopez Obrador, who won a landslide victory in Mexico’s July 1 elections, personally announced the fund several days after the earthquake, encouraging all Mexicans to “do your part” to help the victims.
But in a 10-1 vote, the electoral institute’s general council ruled the fund broke the law, imposing a fine of 197 million pesos.
Around half the money donated to the fund was in cash and came from unknown sources, said council member Ciro Murayama.
Most of the money — $3.4 million — was withdrawn from the account via checks made out mainly to party leaders.
“This is not an isolated case of irregular activities, it was a whole plot to obtain parallel financing,” Murayama said.
Lopez Obrador, who ran on an anti-corruption platform, says the fund was “completely transparent” and has vowed to appeal the ruling.
The electoral institute also fined the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party $1.9 million for illegally using state resources for its campaign in the northern state of Chihuahua, and the conservative National Action Party $158,000 for accepting a donation from a company in person.
All three rulings can be appealed.