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Mexico's new name in corruption fighting: IFE

The Federal Electoral Institute is investigating President Vicente Fox for possible campaign violations.

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Juan Antonio Gonzalez Zambrano doesn't particularly care for any Mexican political party, or for politics in general. But the 52-year-old owner of a rotisserie chicken eatery in downtown Mexico City has a new hero, and an unlikely one at that.

"There will always be a table here for the IFE," he says of Mexico's electoral watchdog, the Federal Electoral Institute. The IFE recently handed down a staggering fine against one of the country's major political parties and is investigating Mexico's president for campaign-spending violations, all in an effort to clean up politics here. "They can eat all the chicken they want - for nothing," he adds.

Mr. Zambrano is not alone. Recent public-opinion polls show that of the countries most respected institutions, three consistently top the list: the church, the Army, and the IFE.

"And it's not always in that order - they change places," says Gastón Luken Garza, one of nine council members that make up the IFE's decisionmaking board.

Mexico's strange affinity for this bureaucratic acronym reflects the depth of disdain citizens here have for the corruption that often plagues Mexican politics. Last month, the IFE slapped a $100 million fine on the country's political powerhouse, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). The fine is the largest levied against a political party by any such organization in the world, and a brazen strike against the almost mythical power that dominated the country for 70 years.

For many Mexicans, the giant fine signaled that the culture of corruption and impunity may be on its way out.

Mr. Garza speaks proudly of his organization, citing its strong sense of purpose. The rank and file at the IFE headquarters use phrases like "mission" and "sacred duty" to describe their jobs. Walls of their offices are covered with slogans and posters that tell Mexican voters, "Your vote is secret and free!" and "Your voice is Mexico's future."

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