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The Videoscandals were political scandals in Mexico in 2004 when videos of prominent politicians taken with hidden cameras were made public. The majority of them involve close collaborators of Andrés Manuel López Obrador, then Mayor of Mexico City: his finance chief Gustavo Ponce and right-hand man René Bejarano; and notable figures from his party, the PRD, in corrupt dealings with former business man Carlos Ahumada. In 2006 the issue was refueled, threatened to show more videos involving more López Obrador collaborators, and later suffered an attempt on her life.
The first video shown on national television was of the Green Party leader (PVEM) being offered a two-million-dollar bribe to give a construction permit in an ecologically protected area. He was taped by one of his own party members, who introduced to him the businessman interested in the project. The three met in the PVEM headquarters. Both sides claimed they weren't serious about the bribe, but were testing each other. This video was quickly forgotten when the PRD videos were shown.
2004 PRD videos
Most of these videos were taped by entrepreneur, who set up an elaborate hidden camera studio in his offices. He claims he taped the meetings to protect himself from future extortion attempts by PRD members. It was Rosario Robles who introduced Ahumada to her fellow party members. The videos are listed in order of chronological appearance on television.
In the first video López Obrador's finance chief, Gustavo Ponce, was filmed gambling at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. He had made 37 similar trips in the last year, his hotel bills revealing huge tips and mini-bar room charges. The video and other evidence were given in confidence to the Mexican Federal Government by the US government. It is unclear how this video was leaked to the public.
López Obrador reacted slowly and unconvincingly: having received a phone call warning him of an impending scandal, he watched Ponce's gambling on the nightly news. He immediately called Ponce by telephone, Ponce reassured López Obrador it was only a confusion and he would explain it to the press the following morning. López Obrador arrived the next day for his morning conference and waited for Ponce to go together to meet the press; when it was obvious Ponce had fled he signed Ponce's leave in his absence. Ponce disappeared, amid heavy criticism of the Federal District government for not placing him in custody immediately. At first López Obrador did not judge Ponce, only saying Ponce owed an explanation for his behavior.
After several weeks López Obrador said that the scandal was part of a conspiracy by his political enemies, as it is incredibly hard to obtain a video from the closed circuit of a casino without an authorization or to obtain guests' bills, considering that the videotapes seemed to be from the security closed circuit. After some time he expressed concern that Ponce had been killed so the truth about the scandal would never come to light. When Ponce was caught hiding in Mexico several months later, he expressed his relief at knowing he was still alive. Some time after his capture, and remembering his conspiracy theory, López Obrador presented to the press confidential documents of the United States Treasury Department detailing an ongoing investigation of Ponce for possible financial crimes. These documents, obtained from the Mexican government by Federal District Attorney General Bernardo Bátiz Vázquez showed, in López Obrador's eyes, a conspiracy by the federal government against him, since they knew before the scandal broke that Ponce was corrupt. Both the Mexican and United States government reacted harshly to this violation of the cooperation agreement among the policies of both countries.
The second scandal came when René Bejarano, previously López Obrador's personal secretary, later elected to the Mexico City legislature, was videotaped accepting USD $1,450,000 in cash. The video got to the hands of Congress member Federico Döring who took it and had it shown on March 3, 2004 at Victor Trujillo's news program (which he hosted as his Brozo character). Coincidentally, Bejarano was at a nearby studio of the same channel giving an unrelated interview for another show. After Trujillo's staff members spotted him, he was immediately invited for an interview at the Brozo program. An in-studio interview with a completely unsuspecting Bejarano followed and he was then shown a replay of the video. A stunned Bejarano claimed that the money, which was given to him by, an Argentine newspaper owner and city contractor, was a cash contribution for the political campaign of Leticia Robles (unrelated to Rosario Robles), a city borough mayor. Robles denied involvement in any illegal campaign financing. In this case, too, López Obrador failed to quickly distance himself from the scandal, placing the blame on a conspiracy by Carlos Ahumada and his political opponents (like ex-president Carlos Salinas), remaining silent about Bejarano. As more videotapes were released, AMLO found it difficult to not say anything about Bejarano's involvement and after a few months he declared he had done something inappropriate. Carlos Ahumada, who fled to Cuba to avoid prosecution, was captured by the Cuban government and held in custody, isolated, for some weeks before being deported to Mexico. Ahumada says he videotaped the encounters for his own safety as he felt threatened by Bejarano's cash requests, and released them as a desperate measure when his contracts with the city government were cancelled. He also gave money to PRD's Carlos Ímaz, another borough mayor, who was introduced to Ahumada by Rosario Robles, AMLO's predecessor.
The PVEM video was quickly forgotten after the PRD videos where shown, so Jorge Emilio Gonzalez was never seriously questioned. Some sources used it as a comic relief and MTV gave it an award. The language used on it was deeply criticized by the Mexican society because a political leader was shown using slang terms like 'chamaqueando' ('don't make a fool of me').
The timing of the "videoscandals" was closely linked to that of the Desafuero scandal involving Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), and so media coverage permitted a "Media Framing" event that related the Mexico City government to the corruption cases of the protagonists of the videos. This created a polarization of public opinion in which many feel that Lopez Obrador is responsible of corruption. In a visit to the ITESM, the politician gave a conference and talked about cleanliness and lack of corruption in his government, and the students laughed at him and shouted the name of videoscandal protagonists. During the elections PAN Presidential candidate, and now President of Mexico Felipe Calderón, compared himself to López Obrador based on the videoscandals.
However, there has been no evidence that directly links Mr. Lopez Obrador to the protagonists of the scandals. The officials of the Government of Mexico City has stated that the public servants involved participated independently, and they were judicially accused, and in some cases, indicted.
The PRD also removed party affiliation to those PRD-militants who were involved.
- Grayson, George W. (2007). Mexican messiah: Andrés Manuel López Obrador. Penn State Press. pp. 163–164, 200. ISBN 978-0-271-03262-7. Retrieved January 32, 2010.
- YouTube - Gustavo Ponce Meléndez - El señor de las Apuestas