Sunday’s Expo-Fraude on the Zocalo in Mexico City garnered a reported 25 TONS of evidence that was presented to the electoral authorities yesterday. Among the evidence turned over was one pig, two turkeys, several chickens and a sheep— allegedly given to rural residents in return for their votes for the PRI. It is not illegal for elected officials to “gift” constituents with goods and or services (or even livestock) paid out of municipal funds, but what started as a well-intentioned public service has often been abused by political parties and candidates.
As a wrote in Gods, Gauchupines and Gringos:
[...] with his background in agricultural economics and concerned about reports of protein deficiencies in México, [1950s President Adolfo] Ruíz Cortines spent six years pushing egg and chicken production, making them staples of the Mexican diet… and given away free turkeys.
These were live turkeys, hopefully, a source of more turkeys, meant and eggs for poor families. In the U.S.S., while it was not uncommon for politicians to distribute turkeys (dead and plucked) to poor constituents with an expectation of their support at the next election, this small, mostly rural, Mexican assistance program is a good example of how the government programs became Party programs. Until the 2000s, there was no suggestion that the birds, seeds or building materials given to needy people were anything other than payment for party support at the next election.
After election law reforms in the late 1990s, the government had to run television commercials to spread the message that anyone — regardless of political party — could have a free turkey. Using government funds to spread party propaganda is now a serious criminal offense, but in every election, candidates still try it. In 2006, one creative PRI candidate spent municipal funds to give away women’s underwear… with the candidate’s face and campaign slogan printed on the front. The candidate lost, by the way.