Mexico’s buck-toothed cartoon president ruled ‘electoral violation’

MEXICO CITY — A buck-toothed cartoon version of Mexico’s president constitutes an “electoral violation,” the country’s electoral tribunal ruled Wednesday, arguing use of the popular caricature in official propaganda gave party candidates an unfair advantage.

The tribunal said it was sanctioning President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s ruling Morena party for “using the caricature of the President of the Republic in its propaganda, which violates the constitutional principles of neutrality and fair contest.”

Mexican President celebrates fourth year in office
A supporter holds a doll of Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador during a march to celebrate his fourth year in office in Mexico City on Nov. 27, 2022.Daniel Cardenas / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images file

Designed by Mexican caricaturist José Hernández, the image of the 69-year-old head of state with tousled gray hair, two large, protruding front teeth and an affable childlike grin giving a thumbs-up gesture, was popularized during López Obrador’s first presidential bid ahead of the 2006 elections.

Affectionately known as “Amlito” — a diminutive reference to the president’s initials, AMLO — the cartoon has since been reproduced on dolls, key chains, baked goods, banners and, crucially, a May 2022 post on Morena’s Twitter account promoting six party candidates for local gubernatorial elections.

The tribunal’s upper chamber ruled there was “constitutional and legal basis” to sanction the message, arguing the image of the popular head of state should not have been used as propaganda for a contest in which he was not a candidate.

It argued “capitalizing on the image” of the president, whose approval rating hovers around 60%, gave his party’s candidates an undue advantage.

The chamber called on “political-electoral propaganda campaigns” to limit themselves to candidates, their proposals, party ideology and platforms. Morena had earlier appealed, arguing there was no legal ban in force on using the caricature.

“Now the (electoral tribunal) has confirmed the action was illegal and sanctioned them,” Jorge Alvarez, an opposition party organizer who filed the complaint, said in a tweet. “We will continue the fight through legal channels.”

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