MEXICO CITY — Thousands of people rushed to stores on Tuesday to redeem prepaid gift cards they said were given them by the party that won Mexico’s presidency, inflaming accusations that the election was marred by massive vote-buying.
At least a few cardholders were angry, complaining they didn’t get as much as promised. Neighbors at one store in a poor neighborhood on the outskirts of Mexico City said the unusually large crowds had prevented them from doing their daily shopping.
Some of those lined up to use their gift cards said they got them for supporting the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, whose candidate Enrique Pena Nieto won Sunday’s election. Some wore red T-shirts and baseball caps with Pena Nieto’s name printed in white.
Maria Salazar, a 20-year-old university student, came with her 70-year-old father, Antonio Salazar, to cash three gift cards.
“They gave us the cards in the name of the PRI and Rep. Hector Pedroza (a PRI congressional candidate), and they said they were counting on our vote,” Maria Salazar said outside the store, as she carried plastic shopping bags packed with toilet paper, cooking oil, rice, saltine crackers and instant noodle soups.
Her father carried another two packed grocery bags and her 8-year-old nephew carried another.
“They told us they were worth 500 pesos ($37.50), but when we got to the checkout, they were only worth 100 rotten pesos, ($7.50)” Salazar said.
Both she and her father said they had been told to turn in a photocopy of their voter ID card in order to get the gift cards.
Another woman interviewed outside the same Soriana grocery store also complained her card had only 100 pesos ($7.50) in credit.
“For helping them with votes and all … they gave us a card for supporting them, and all that for 100 pesos,” said the woman, who gave only her first name, Josefina, for fear of reprisals. She said she got the card for supporting Pena Nieto, but complained that “100 pesos lasts you about five minutes.”
Inside the store, such long lines formed at card-reading machines as people tried to find the balances on their cards. Some grew angry and shouted insults against Pena Nieto.
Regular shoppers were vexed at the long lines. “I was going to buy bread right now, but you can see, the lines are tremendous, you can’t even get in,” said Maria Garcia Lobato.
Pena Nieto’s campaign and the PRI press office said they had no immediate comment, and the press representative of the Soriana grocery store chain did not immediately respond to phone calls. In the final days of the campaign, PRI officials denied similar allegations that the party distributed pre-paid cash cards from a local bank.