Top 6 Political Scandals in Mexico

Misconduct and political corruption are common features of Mexican politics. From election rigging, money laundering to inhuman massacres, Mexico’s politicians are known for fraudulent activities, while Mexican police are infamous for their violence.

Despite Mexico being a federal republic, its past governments have controlled every area of public life. Governments have also indulged in discrimination based on gender and race (both mixed and indigenous). Here are some scandals that have tainted the Mexican politics and government through the history.

Navigation of the Top 6 Political Scandals in Mexico

1. Chiapas State Election
2. Mexican Presidential Expenses
3. Aguas Blancas Massacre
4. Mexican General Election
5. Pemexgate
6. Mario Villanueva

More Political Scandals

1. Chiapas State Election – 2006

Election rigging is not uncommon in Mexico. In an example of local political rigging, two contesting politicians threw their support behind the opposition party candidate just ten days prior to the elections. Mexican state of Chiapas was due to hold local elections on August 20, 2006 to elect a new Governor in the gubernatorial election.

There were five registered candidates fighting the election. But in a shocking incident, Francisco Rojas Toledo of the National Action Party and Emilio Zebadúa of New Alliance on August 10 announced that they were withdrawing from the election and throwing their support behind the Institutional Revolutionary Party’s José Antonio Aguilar Bodegas.

They were doing this to foil the chances of Juan José Sabines Guerrero, candidate of political party ‘Alliance for the Good of All’. They appealed to their supporters to vote for Bodegas instead. But their names still appeared on the ballot papers with people casting votes for both candidates.

2. Mexican Presidential Expenses – 2001

The presidential expenses controversy, also called Toallagate or Towelgate, was a political scandal in 2001 involving President Vincente Fox. Mexican newspaper Milenio alleged that the president’s office had spent US $440,000 to redecorate two cabins and embroidered towels costing up to $400 each were bought. The incident caused severe embarrassment for the Fox administration and resulted in the resignation of Carlos Rojas, the head of the presidential acquisitions committee.

3. Aguas Blancas Massacre – 1995

The Aguas Blancas Massacre occurred on 28 June 1995 in Aguas Blancas, Mexico. Members of the South Mountain Range Farmer Organization were on their way to Atoyac de Álvarez to take part in a protest march demanding the release of peasant activist Gilberto Romero Vázquez when they were shot by police from a point blank range.

Seventeen farmers were massacred in this inhuman way on the orders of the governor, who wanted the demonstrations prevented in any way possible. A further 21 protesters were injured in the incident. Ex-Secretary General of Guerrero, José Rubén Robles Catalán, and Head of State Police Gustavo Olea Godoy were also involved in the massacre.

4. Mexican General Election – 2006

The Mexican general election in 2006 courted controversy after accusations of irregularities led to a recount of votes. On the day of the election, the Federal Electoral Institute (IFE) announced that it was a close call and did not make any official statement. But the next day, National Action Party candidate Felipe Calderón was declared to have a small lead of 1.04%. Despite requests by the IFE not to jump to conclusions, both Calderón and opponent López Obrador from the Coaltion for the Good of All declared they had won the election.

The official vote count in July 2006 pronounced Calderon as the winner with a narrow margin of 0.58%. But Obrador alleged irregularities in a number of polling stations and demanded a national recount. Recounts were done at polling stations that had indulged in irregularities but subsequently it was ruled that Caledron had indeed won. This was met with resistance from the opposition. Further investigation found ballots dumped in the trash and dustbins.

5. Pemexgate – 1994-2000

Pemexgate was a political scandal involving the Mexican political party PRI between 1994 and 2000. During PRI rule, national oil company PEMEX had indulged in corruption and fraudulent activities. In 2001, it was discovered that funds belonging to the company’s trade union had been illegally funneled towards the campaign of Francisco Labastida, the presidential candidate for the Institutional Revolutionary Party. The party was fined $1,000 million (Mexican dollar) for money laundering.

6. Mario Villanueva – 2001

In 2001, Mario Villanueva, an influential Mexican politician and governor of the state of Quintana Roo, was arrested on allegations of drug trafficking, including the illegal shipping of cocaine. Other charges included money laundering and organized crime. All these were committed when he was holding office. After a lengthy trial, he was sentenced to 36 years imprisonment in 2008.

Mexican politicians have used violence as a tool to intimidate people. Suspected rebels are detained illegally, tortured and even murdered. Election frauds, as evidenced by the numerous scandals, are a common occurrence. The government has been unsuccessful in dealing with drug lords, that Mexico is so notorious for. In fact, some politicians are themselves involved with drug cartels.

Mexico is currently under the rule of the National Action Party (PAN) with Felipe Calderon as President. He has not been very successful in curbing drug crimes and was himself embroiled in controversy during the 2006 general elections. One can only wonder whether fair elections can ever be conducted on Mexican soil and whether progress of the country, that shares its border with the most powerful nation in the world, will ever take an honest route.