The National Electoral Institute (INE) has fined the Citizens Movement (MC) party 55 million pesos (US $2.7 million) after ruling that its gubernatorial candidate in Nuevo León received prohibited social media support from his influencer wife.
The INE general council determined that social media posts by Mariana Rodríguez in support of Samuel García, who won the June 6 election, were worth 27.8 million pesos.
However, García didn’t pay Rodríguez for the posts, most of which were made on Instagram, and didn’t report the “donation in kind” to electoral authorities.
Rodríguez’s posts, which included some 1,300 Instagram stories and 45 photographs during the campaign period, “are a donation in kind in that they gave publicity to her husband’s candidacy,” INE chief Lorenzo Córdova said Thursday.
“That should have been considered what it was, a campaign donation, and it wasn’t reported,” he said.
“… Of course she can participate and appear [in her husband’s campaign], what she can’t do is use her income source [social media] … in a campaign,” Córdova said.
The INE said that Rodríguez’s social media accounts constitute a business and business people are prohibited from making donations in kind.
MC said it would appeal the fine, whose size is double the estimated value of the publicity provided by Rodríguez. She and García, a 33-year-old former federal senator, were fined just under 449,000 pesos (US $22,400) for breaching election rules.
“We will not allow the legitimate and convincing win of Samuel García in Nuevo León to be tarnished,” MC said in a statement.
“Citizens Movement will contest INE’s resolution before the TEPJF [the Federal Electoral Tribunal].”
The party noted that the TEPJF ruled in García’s favor after his then-girlfriend supported him on social media in the lead-up to the 2018 election, which he contested as a candidate for senator.
“It established that [Rodríguez’s posts] were publications protected by freedom of speech that didn’t constitute irregularities … nor an expense that must be reported,” MC said.
The couple slammed the INE’s actions, claiming that the electoral body was objectifying Rodríguez, who has 1.8 million Instagram followers, by putting a price on her support for her husband. Two INE councilors agreed with that assessment but eight voted in favor of imposing the fines and just three voted against.
“… This seems to me very offensive that they want to put a price on me,” Rodríguez said in a video. She also said she had filed a sexual discrimination complaint with the National Human Rights Commission.
“We women are not accessories. We are not a product or merchandise with a sticker price. The support I gave to my husband is not a ‘donation in kind’,” she wrote on Instagram.
“We women should not be forced by the INE or anyone else to chose between freely exercising our profession or participating with our spouses. … I demand respect for women from all relevant authorities, we mustn’t be treated as objects with value. What is happening today is called political gender violence.”
García, who will succeed Jaime Rodríguez as governor of Nuevo León in October, highlighted that the fine imposed on his party is higher than that of US $2 million handed to the Green Party, which broke election rules by paying social media influencers to support it.
President López Obrador, who has had his own run-ins with the INE, weighed in on the issue on Friday, asserting that the electoral authority had overstepped the mark.
“… It’s the most normal thing for a … wife to speak well of her husband; if she’s going to charge him or not, that’s another matter,” he said.
“I see this as more politicking [on behalf of the INE], … I wouldn’t say [playing] politics, politics is a noble trade. We have to see who’s carrying out these maneuvers,” López Obrador said.
“… That’s why we have to renew the INE and the [electoral] tribunal, so there is seriousness [in the consideration of electoral matters] …”