A link between Cambridge Analytica, the controversial political consulting firm linked to U.S. President Donald Trump, and Mexico's governing Institutional Revolutionary Party has been uncovered in an investigative report by British broadcaster Channel 4 News.
The report, which was published the day before Mexico's presidential election campaigns began, reveals Cambridge established an office in Mexico City and worked for the ruling party until January this year.
"A source told Channel 4 news that the ruling PRI party did work with Cambridge Analytica until January this year," says Guillermo Galdos, a Channel 4 correspondent in Latin America.
A video recorded by an undercover journalist posing as a fixer for a client shows Cambridge Analytica Founder and Executive Director Alexander Nix discussing their work in Mexico. He also highlights his 11-hour trip to "collect some tequila and some tacos" and meet with clients who want "to do a handshake and just sign some documents."
The director goes on to talk about how they have to be very careful in Mexico because drug money is involved in politics and siding with the wrong politician can be lethal.
According to Galdos, the firm's directors met with several politicians in Mexico in an attempt to secure a bigger contract, but it was unclear if they were successful.
A previous report by Channel 4 shows Cambridge Analytica's Nix; Global Politics General Director Mark Turnbull and Chief of Data Office Alex Tayler talking about how they used bribery, former spies, fake news and sex workers to pressure politicians and interfere in the electoral process in several countries, including Mexico.
Arielle Dale Karro, Cambridge Analytica's head of operations in Mexico, previously denied the firm's involvement in the elections, saying that they were working exclusively on commercial affairs.
However, another investigation by BuzzFeed News showed that Karro had been scouting for data analysts to work on a project related to the presidential elections.
"We are the brains behind the Trump Election, the Nelson Mandela Election, and will be the brains behind the Mexican Presidential Election," Karro wrote in a LinkedIn message.
In an Oct. 23 Facebook post to the page 'Foreigners in Mexico City,' ahead of governor elections, executives of Cambridge's Mexican branch such as Arielle Dale Karro were also reportedly in contact with members of the conservative National Action Party, including Senator Ernesto Cordero.
Cambridge Analytica worked in Mexico with a data collection app called Pig.gi, which offers free internet to users in exchange for personal information, viewing sponsored publicity and answering surveys.
"Pig.gi has already been hugely successful in Mexico and Colombia," said Nix last year in a communique, when the app recorded 200,000 users. "We're thrilled to be partnering with the app so that their partners can get the right message to the right people at the right time."
Cambridge Analytica's vice president told Bloomberg last year that the partnership was transparently designed to influence the votes of younger Mexicans: Mexico's general election is due on July 1.
Pig.gi has about one million users and is popular among middle and lower classes in Mexico and Colombia, who rarely have internet access at home.
"People that can change an election in Mexico are those millennials living in poor rural or urban areas, and that's why they're giving away Wi-Fi: that's where they get their intelligence from," said Javier Murillo, director of Metrics Digital, a digital technology consulting firm.
Colombia blocked Pig.gi access on March 28, preventing it from interfering in the upcoming presidential elections, but Mexican authorities have yet to take any direct action.
The details of Cambridge Analytica's involvement in the 2018 Mexican presidential elections are not yet known, but if it worked with the ruling PRI, it might not have done a great job.
PRI's candidate Jose Antonio Meade is currently third in the polls, close to right-wing Ricardo Anaya and far behind Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who is leading all surveys with more than 40 percent of the vote intention.
Mexico's campaign period kicked off on Friday, after an in-between period in which candidates had to restrict their comments and publicity. When the campaign period starts, political parties, their coalitions and independent candidates will use broadcast time on radio and TV, street banners and all they have at hand to ask citizens to vote for them.