Mexico’s ruling party, the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, paid Cambridge Analytica millions of dollars ahead of Sunday’s presidential election—to keep the data consulting firm out of it.
In 2017, the now-bankrupt company proposed to bolster the PRI’s candidate, José Antonio Meade, with the same tactics it deployed to promote Donald Trump during 2016 election in the US, according to a New York Times report. After considering the offer, the PRI decided it was sufficiently equipped to mess with the election itself. But it hired Cambridge Analytica anyway, to prevent it from helping the other candidates in the race, according to the newspaper. The PRI denied any involvement with the firm, according to the story.
The deal shows the PRI’s desperation in boosting its poor-performing candidate, a gray technocrat who had trouble connecting with voters. It’s also a sign of the growing importance of data mining as a voter-influencing tool—at least in politicians’ eyes. Cambridge Analytica has been active in more than 200 elections around the world, including the Brexit vote in the UK in 2016.
In Mexico, the government’s involvement with the firm doesn’t seem to have offered a strategic advantage; Meade has been trailing far behind frontrunner Andrés Manuel López Obrador. The latest poll put him at less than 20% of the vote.