Jul 3, 2012

Panicked shopping in Soriana from fear the PRI will cancel gift cards

La Jornada: Americas Program Original Translation by Ryan Gentzler
See Spanish original.

The fear that fraud would be discovered caused several locations of the national supermarket chain Soriana to be overrun early this week. Hundreds of people from the State of Mexico and the Federal District who had sold their votes to the PRI-PVEM coalition exchanged the prepaid cards they had been given for food and electronics. “They said they had been told that they were going to cancel the electronic cards. They’re worried because we already voted.”

Another theory behind the cards being cancelled was that Martha Angón, a candidate for mayor in Nezahualcóyotl, was losing. “But that’s not my fault. I saw that Peña Nieto's wife raised his hand [in celebration of his victory], so it worked.”

Customers began redeeming the cards, identified by cashiers of the chain as “the vouchers that the PRI gave them so that Peña would win," Friday night within the Federal District limits and the municipality of Nezahualcóyotl,

They were initially offered only one hundred pesos [about $8] for their votes, said those who received cards. But the amount increased as the election came closer. “Yesterday – Sunday, July 1st – you went to the poll, you voted, you took a picture of the ballot marked for PRI, you showed them it and they gave you the card,” explained Rocío Ugalde.

There was good and bad news when validating the credit. Some had amounts in their cards (prepaid Soriana cards) that they weren’t expecting: “300, 500, up to 700 pesos.” Some carried up to 20 cards because “they gave us one for each voter that we brought.”

In the Soriana located above Ignacio Zaragoza, only a few meters from Clinic 25 of the Mexican Social Security Institute, in the Juan Escutia neighborhood, long lines could be seen the entire day. Some waited up to an hour just to check the credit, “because there have already been reports of cards without any money on them.”

Employees at the store said that since the Friday before, the store had been stocked with food in order to be able to meet the demand of customers “sent by the PRI.” On the reason that so many were coming, one commented: “ They come from Neza and they live nearby, also from San Juan de Aragón, but I think the card can be used at any Soriana.”

Entire families came to fill their pantries. Some only took bags of beans, rice, and oil. Others bought boxes of cereal and packages of toilet paper. There were a few that bought mattresses or electronics.

In the lines, the conversations were open: “How many cards did they give you? How many votes did you get?”

According to customer service representatives at Soriana, the card can be exchanged for goods. It was known as a prepaid card, but it was discontinued and there is now a new product called “My Savings.”

“I suppose they obtained the prepaid card by an agreement with the management. We don’t know how these agreements are made,” they said.

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