MEXICO CITY -- The Ecologist Green Party of Mexico isnt your garden-variety group advocating recycling and mass transportation. Its swimming in cash, ideologically flexible and tainted by scandal.
And it plays an outsized role in the campaign thats leading up to this countrys presidential election July 1. For one thing, its in a coalition with the Institutional Revolutionary Party, the odds-on favorite to recapture the presidency. It may form part of the next government.
Environmental advocates say the Mexican party hijacked the green label and has leveraged its growth by association with the global green-party movement. Politicians from green parties hold elected positions in 25 countries, largely in Europe but also in Asia, Africa and the Americas.
The truth is that there is nothing green about this party. It is not interested in the environment, said Araceli Dominguez, the head of the Mayab Ecologist Group in Mexicos Yucatan region. Theyve never worked with us on campaigns.
Even illiterate voters can recognize the partys symbol on the ballot, a toucan with a huge yellow and red bill. The partys ads are ever present, including at movie theaters as lead-ins before feature presentations.
One of the more surprising positions of the Ecologist Green Party of Mexico, known by its Spanish initials as the PVEM, is its demand to reinstate the death penalty as a way to cut crime. The position led European Green parties to sever ties with the Mexican group in 2009, declaring they could no longer consider the PVEM a member of the green political family.
Mexicos green party has zigzagged since it emerged in 1986, at one time or another lending support to leftist, centrist and center-right parties.
Instead of ideology, what knits the party are friendships and clan ties to its founder, Jorge Gonzalez Torres, who led it from the late 1980s to 2001, and to his son, Jorge Emilio Gonzalez, whos widely known by the moniker Green Boy.
In the early years, the elder Gonzalez espoused concern about the environment but interest weakened when the son took over in 2001.
The party was shaken in 2004 when Green Boy was caught on video appearing to negotiate a $2 million bribe to help win approval for a hotel development near Cancun that would require destroying mangrove trees.
The son was linked to another scandal on April 2, 2011, when a 25-year-old Bulgarian woman whod arrived from Europe a day earlier fell 19 floors to her death from a Cancun balcony that news outlets said belonged to the Gonzalez family. Prosecutors said suicide couldnt be ruled out, and no charges were pressed.
Scholars say the Ecologist Green Party is an example of dysfunction that allows small parties to collect huge payouts from the central government for their activities while striking deals with bigger parties at election time.
Mexico has imposed government financing of parties as a way to keep underworld money out of politics.
It is profitable to run a political party, said Ulises Corona, a political scientist at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, the nations biggest. Were talking about billions of pesos that the central government gives these parties for their campaigns and administrative costs.