Mexican opposition accuses Cabinet minister of corruption

Mexico City, Apr 18 (EFE).- Mexico's main opposition PAN on Thursday urged President Enrique Peña Nieto to dismiss a member of his Cabinet for allegedly planning to use public spending to benefit the governing Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, in upcoming state elections.

PAN chair Gustavo Madero issued the call a day after releasing audio and video tapes of discussions about manipulating social programs to boost the vote for the PRI in the July 7 gubernatorial election in the Gulf coast state of Veracruz.

Federal Social Development Secretary Rosario Robles, Veracruz Gov. Javier Duarte and six other officials should be suspended pending completion of an investigation, the PAN leader said.

Madero filed a formal criminal complaint in the matter on Wednesday.

The conservative PAN says it has more than 12 hours of audio and video documenting conversations among federal and Veracruz officials on how best to channel spending on social programs to benefit the PRI.

"Just as we combat drug trafficking, we must also combat this organized crime that is destroying democracy in this country," Madero told MVS radio Thursday.

Illicit use of public funds is how the PRI "remains in power for 85 years in these states, such as Veracruz, Quintana Roo, Tamaulipas, Durango, Coahuila," the PAN chairman said.

The PRI ran Mexico without interruption from 1929 to 2000, when the PAN's Vicente Fox won the presidency. The conservative party managed to win a second mandate in 2006, but its candidate finished third in last year's contest, behind Peña Nieto and leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

Fourteen of Mexico's 32 states are holding elections July 7.

Robles denied any wrongdoing and said her department is investigating the PAN allegations.

"I have absolutely nothing to do with" the matters raised by Madero, the secretary told MVS.