Disguised as opinion polls, Mexicans are receiving automated campaign calls against the National Renewal Movement’s (Morena) Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the front-runner for the upcoming presidential elections in Mexico.
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Citizens started receiving the calls, which claim to be from “Mexican Institute for Democracy," recently, however, an investigation done by Mexican newspaper El Universal found no records of its existence.
“Morena has Nestora Salgado, currently in a criminal process accused of kidnapping, and Napoleon Gomez Urrutia, a fugitive living in Canada running away from accusations of fraud against the Mining Union, in their list of plurinominal candidates for the Senate. If you were aware of this, press 1. If you weren’t press 2,” says a female voice at the beginning of a recorded phone message, without specifying what’s the purpose of the call.
Another question says “Do you consider that proposing candidates with these background shows Lopez Obrador’s intention of declaring amnesty for criminals, kidnappers and drug dealers? If you agree with this affirmation press 1 if you disagree press 2.”
Así la guerra sucia telefónica contra @lopezobrador_ y los candidatos de Morena @nestora_salgado y @Napoleongomezu pic.twitter.com/E0XitXYFCV
— Salvador García Soto (@SGarciaSoto) 5 de junio de 2018
Salgado is one of the founders, and a former leader of a community police in the state of Guerrero, which emerged as a people’s response to the growing insecurity in the region and a general mistrust of corrupt police authorities they claim have colluded with drug cartels.
The community police are backed by the constitution, which states that indigenous communities have the right to govern themselves and decide on the justice system that is more convenient to them.
In 2013, Salgado’s unit arrested and held prisoner a group of people, including the community’s trustee, for stealing livestock and killing the owner of the livestock. The trustee then accused Salgado of kidnapping and organized crime, even though everything her unit did was legal under their customs, and she spent two years and seven months in prison.
Another version of the message warns about Lopez Obrador’s “populist” ideas. “If you’re going to vote this election it’s important you listen to this message. If you’re thinking about voting for Lopez Obrador, it’s vital you listen to this. Do you know Lopez Obrador is fighting with business people, which puts at risk investments in the country? If you agree with what he’s doing, press 1.”
If you press 1, the call ends. If you press 2, more messages like these continue.
Las molestas llamadas han de estar convenciendo a los indecisos de que voten por el Peje en vez de lo contrario.
— Pedro el Cosmonauta (@pedrocosmonauta) 7 de junio de 2018
The calls seem to be aimed at states were Morena has strong support in the opinion polls, such ase Mexico City, Yucatan, Tabasco, Puebla, Veracruz, Baja Californa, Michoacan, Chiapas, Oaxaca, the State of Mexico and Tlaxcala.
According to Tatiana Clouthier Carrillo, Lopez Obrador’s campaign coordinator, the “dirty war” has two objectives: Throwing garbage at Lopez Obrador to change votes and making people abstain from voting by making them think that all candidates are the same.
Horacio Duarte Olivares, Morena’s delegate for the electoral authorities said they already filed a complaint. “We’re aking the National Electoral Institute to investigate who’s behind the calls, who is financing a call center this size to harm the image of Andres Manuel,” he said.
It’s still unknown who is responsible for the calls, but they started shortly after Lopez Obrador had a somewhat difficult meeting with the Mexican Council of Businesses (CMN), integrated by Mexico’s highest business class.
Also, the messages are in line with the accusations made by the ruling party’s candidate Jose Antonio Meade, who called Salgado a “kidnapper” and a “criminal” during the last presidential debate, despite the accusations have been dropped off.
Far from actually changing the minds of voters, evidenced by his only growing popularity, the call shows that someone out there is blatantly desperate.