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Mexico's small, oft-questioned Green Party to become the second-largest force in Congress

MEXICO CITY (AP) — It’s been a long strange trip for Mexico’s Ecologist Green Party, which rode on its alliance with the ruling Morena party to become the second-largest voting block in Congress.
FILE - Pedestrians walk by an campaign mural emblazoned with a "vote green" message promoting the Green Party, in Mexico City, May 29, 2021. Mexico’s Ecologist Green Party rode on its alliance with the ruling Morena party in the June 2, 2024 general election to become the second-largest voting block in Congress. (AP Photo/Ginnette Riquelme, File)

MEXICO CITY (AP) — It’s been a long strange trip for Mexico’s Ecologist Green Party, which rode on its alliance with the ruling Morena party to become the second-largest voting block in Congress.

This Green Party has been better known for picking presidential winners like it did this time with incoming President Claudia Sheinbaum and making strategic alliances regardless of political ideology than for taking on environmental causes.

But it has always been a strange political group in Mexico. Founded by the millionaire owner of a discount pharmacies chain, the Green party has at various times called for re-instating the death penalty, mandatory English classes for school kids and life prison sentences for kidnappers.

What it is good at is handing out free campaign swag — backpacks, T-shirts and water bottles with its logo “PVEM”, for Partido Verde Ecologista de Mexico — and getting influencers and celebrities to post videos supporting it, allegedly in exchange for payments.

The party has allied itself with whoever it thinks will win. It was an ally of the old ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party, of the conservative National Action Party, and now cleaves to the ruling Morena party of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

That has worked for them, because Mexico's arcane election laws allow coalition parties to distribute votes, congressional seats and state governorships among themselves.

That means the Greens, which have almost never functioned as a real opposition, will likely displace the National Action party as the main opposition party in Congress in September. Though the Green Party won far fewer actual votes in the June 2 elections than National Action, it will have more seats in Congress because of ‘proportional representation’ rules designed to favor smaller parties.

But those alliances mean the Greens have supported López Obrador's policies of reviving Mexico's state-owned oil industry and its production of heavy crude oil and highly-polluting, poorly refined fuel oil. The government has subsidized airports, highways and gasoline prices, while building the Maya Train tourist line through jungles and over fragile caverns on the Yucatan Peninsula.

“The Green Party is anything but green," said Adrián Fernández Bremauntz, the director of the activist group Climate Initiative. “They have voted against the environment, against public health and against fighting climate change.”

The party promotes its efforts that have increased penalties for polluters, banned animal acts at circuses and added the right to a healthy environment to the Constitution.

But in 2009, the Green Party also proposed returning the death penalty for kidnappers who kill their victims. The proposal was not adopted. Mexico formally abolished the death penalty in 2005 but has not held an execution since 1961.

That lead the European Greens coalition to say publicly in 2009 that they did not consider the Mexican party a member of the green political family.

“It's not consistent with the (environmental) causes,” but wins votes from young people or the well-intentioned, but poorly informed, Fernández Bramauntz said.

In the late 1980s, the party's founders, members of the González Torres family, saw an attractive marketing ploy in the “green” label that could probably sell politically.

“The environmentalist label was hijacked here in Mexico," said Paula Sofía Vásquez, the co-author of the book “The Green Mafia,” who called it "a business model based on politics,” because under Mexican electoral law, the government funds most electoral campaigns.

And from their business experience, they also realized the importance of marketing. The party has relied mainly on younger, physically attractive candidates, social media influencers and celebrities, and catchy one-line slogans based on whatever issue was at the top of voters' minds.

Green party leader Karen Castrejón said the group had supported some controversial proposals because they were “fundamental for our country.” Castrejón attributed the party's success to “political engineering” and “solid proposals.”

“Regrettably, we have always been stigmatized as a party," Castrejón said. “they say we always go with whoever is in power.”

Things got so bad that in 2015, about 150,000 people signed petitions asking electoral authorities to pull the party's registration. The effort failed.

María Marván, a legal expert at Mexico's National Autonomous University, served on the country's electoral board at the time.

“It was a very spirited discussion,” said Marván. “They have been involved in a lot of underhanded dealing.”

Maria Verza, The Associated Press