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[MEXICO CITY] Mexico's scientific community got an extra US$44.5 million dollars in funding last year from fines paid by political parties for breaking campaigning rules in recent elections, it was announced last week.

The funds came from fines imposed by the Federal Electoral Institute (FEI) on parties that broke the rules in 2000 and 2003, for instance by spending more than is permitted on electoral campaigns.

The Institutional Revolutionary Party, which ruled Mexico for 70 years until it lost the 2000 election, incurred the largest share of the fines (see table). It spent US$100 million dollars more than is permitted on the 2000 presidential campaign, which it lost to the current president Vicente Fox of the National Action Party.

Main fines in 2005 for breaches of electoral rules
Political party Fine (US$)
Institutional Revolutionary Party 35.5 million
Labour Party 3.5 million
Convergence for Democracy 3 million
Democratic Revolution Party 2 million
National Action Party 680,000

According to the federal budget, announced in December, the fines will be imposed again this year, meaning that electoral irregularities in the run-up to July's presidential vote could give an additional boost to Mexican science.

"These funds will exclusively support the development of research projects in the country, and could increase during the presidential campaign when the parties will spend almost US$430 million," said Julio Cesar Córdova, president of the House of Representatives's science and technology commission.

The money will be added to the budget of the National Council of Science and Technology, Mexico's main science funding agency.

In a separate development, the Mexican Treasury announced last week how it plans to distribute US$273 million in tax cuts intended to encourage research and development in the industrial sector.

But Mexico's scientific community has raised concerns about the lack of transparency in the way they are distributed. Last year most of the cuts went to transnational companies that operate in Mexico but have no research laboratories there. 

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