Mexico’s Capricious but Enduring ‘Green’ Party
By JESSICA GUERRERO
MORELIA, Michoacán — More than three decades since its foundation by politician Jorge González Torres, the Green Ecologist Party of Mexico (PVEM) has managed to ride the partisan crest of Mexican politics, fluctuating like a chess piece between the different political currents in the country.
But despite being one of the longest-standing parties in Mexico’s modern democratic history, this political organization has never been able to stand on its own, and has barely survived from election to election through alliances with other bigger parties.
The founding story of the PVEM is controversial. It was started as a political consignment from former Mexican President Carlos Salinas de Gortari to his closest collaborator, Manuel Camacho Solís, to help González Torres to form a straw party in the late 1980s.
The González Torres family themselves emerged from the Mexican political and business elites, along with the nascent party. The brother of the founder of the PVEM, Victor González Torres, also known as Dr. Simi, formed a pharmaceutical empire in Mexico, which currently controls 39 percent of the pharmaceutical sector with sales of over $2.615 billion, according to the latest available data.
Likewise, Jorge González Torres’ sister, Virginia González Torres, who is also considered a founding member of the PVEM, has long served in high-ranking positions within the Mexico’s mental health system, including as general director of the Technical Secretariat of the National Mental Health Council (Consame). However, her career within the sector has been plagued by a number of scandals, including allegations that she lacks the professional training needed to carry out the position. She has also had clashes with several state governments, most recently in the southern Mexican state of Yucatan due to a dispute over the control of the state psychiatric hospital.
Although ¿the figure of Jorge González Torres has now completely vanished from the PVEM profile, his son, Jorge Emilio González Martínez, also known as the Green Boy, inherited the party’s baton, becoming the PVEM leader in 2001 at just 29 years of age. Before taking the lead of his father’s party, González Martínez had already begun his career in Mexican politics, first as a federal deputy and later as a senator.
Since González Martínez became leader of the PVEM, his career has been full of ups and downs. In 2004, he was seen in a leaked video where he allegedly conducted negotiations to receive a $2 million bribe in exchange for “lifting” the government restrictions to sell property belonging to an ecological reserve in Cancun. where a high-value hotel zone was to be built.
And in 2011, he was linked to an alleged homicide of a Bulgarian citizen (also in Cancun) who died in one of the complexes that apparently belonged to González Martínez while a party was being held in which González Martínez was in attendance. Months later, it was revealed that the Bulgarian had committed suicide and that the property in question did not actually belong to González Martínez, but rather to a very close friend of his, so the accusations were dismissed.
Two years later, in 2013, González Martínez was arrested in one of the main avenues of Mexico City after allegedly driving while intoxicated and later sent to the Center for Administrative Sanctions and Social Integration, also known as El Torito, where he remained detained for a few hours after his arrest.
The first great participation of the PVEM in Mexico’s political life came in 1994 in the presidential election of that year, where Jorge González Torres unsuccessfully competed against candidates Ernesto Zedillo of the centralist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), Diego Fernández de Cevallos of the conservative National Action Party (PAN) and Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas of the left-leaning Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD). In that election, the PVEM obtained less than 1 percent of the total votes.
This defeat would teach the PVEM a hard lesson that would shape its political aspirations in the future: There is strength in numbers. It would behoove the PVEM to ally itself with the country’s ruling party of the moment and form a coalition that would allow it to be part in the political elite, with all the corresponding prerogatives.
In the next presidential elections in 2000, the PVEM alined itself with the PAN candidacy of Vicente Fox. The same thing happened in 2012, with the PRI’s Enrique Peña Nieto’s candidacy and, more recently, in 2018 with Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s candidacy and his leftist National Regeneration Movement party (Morena).
The first great independent victory for the PVEM came in 2012, when it won the governorship of Chiapas, a state located in the extreme south of Mexico, with candidate Manuel Velasco Coello, who just happened to be the nephew of aforementioned politician Camacho Solís.
Ironically, the PVEM, which has tried to present itself as eco-friendly with an emerald-hued banner and a picture of a tucan, has stood out from Mexico’s other political parties in recent years, not for its success in politics, but rather for being “the least green party” due to its massive expenditures on campaign advertising.
Moreover, the party has been involved in major scandals for violating electoral bans and campaigning rules. In June of this year, it allegedly paid out large sums of money to social media influencers and well-known television celebrities to endorse its candidates outside of the time frame for political proselytism established by the National Electoral Institute (INE).
According to investigations, the party offered 100,000 pesos to various social media personalities in exchange for postings encouraging their followers to vote in favor of the PVEM in the June 6 elections.
The INE considered this offense as a serious electoral crime and fined the party 40 million pesos, as well as cancelling its right to radio and television ads for one year.
In addition to the fine, the PVEM is currently being investigated by the Special Prosecutor’s Office for Electoral Crimes (FEDE) and in the Technical Unit for Electoral Litigation for allegedly using funds from unidentified sources to finance activities and campaign events.
This situation led to considerable discontent among activist groups and citizens, who sent a petition to the INE requesting it to withdraw the registration of the PVEM as a political party. More than 165,000 signatures were collected in favor of this initiative.
But the petition was eventually dismissed by the INE and the party has once again managed to eke by in Mexico’s tumultuous world of politics, moving forward with its own objectives under the cover of the majority Morena and the Labor Party (PT), with which it has formed a convenient alliance within the Chamber of Deputies.
In 2022, this tripartite coalition is expected to grow with the addition of the newly formed New Alliance Party (Panal) to its ranks.
In short, the PVEM has been able to survive in Mexico’s topsy-turvy electorate system for more than 30 years by knowing how to flow with the tide, forming adventacious but superficial alliances that suit its needs at the moment.
This chameleon practice has served the PVEM well for three decades, keeping it afloat in the waters of Mexican politics despite its low popularity and public support election after election.
Under the guise of being an environment-oriented party and given its weak, ephemeral ideological identity, plagued by blatant discrepancies and contradictions, the PVEM’s leaders have shrewdly managed to ensure that the party will endure, changing their political course to adapt to the capricous winds of the time, regardless of whatever party comes to power.