| MEXICO CITY
MEXICO CITY May 21 A U.S. cellphone company
owned by Carlos Slim has asked Californian authorities to
investigate the funding behind protests against the Mexican
tycoon by lobby group Two Countries, One Voice.
The group has been leading U.S. protests against Slim,
accusing his phone company of charging Mexican immigrants
inflated prices to call home, just as the billionaire tries to
build up business in the United States.
Slim's small but growing U.S. cellphone company Tracfone on
Tuesday said it filed a complaint with California's Fair
Political Practices Commission, alleging the group has been
lobbying state officials and regulatory bodies.
"We have requested that the FPPC investigate our claims...to
determine the true sponsors of (Two Countries, One Voice) and
whether the political process in California has been unduly
subverted by corporate and/or political interests."
A spokesperson for California's FPPC did not immediately
respond to messages.
It is not the first skirmish between Slim and the group.
Last year, Two Countries, One Voice organized a
demonstration against Slim with the Occupy Wall Street movement
and New York politicians outside Saks' swanky Fifth
Avenue flagship store in Manhattan, in which Slim owns a stake.
At the time, Slim's spokespeople said that Two Countries,
One Voice was a paid protest group.
Two Countries, One Voice leader Andres Ramirez, a public
relations executive based in Las Vegas, told Reuters then that
group is a coalition of about 50 organizations funded by the
groups within it. It formed in early 2012 to protest the high
phone rates Mexicans face when calling family in the United
States, he said last August.
Ramirez on Tuesday said again that Two Countries, One Voice
is funded from his own pocket, as well as from contributions
from affiliate groups.
A columnist in Mexico's Reforma daily newspaper last week
wrote that Ramirez has links with TV Azteca,
Mexico's second-biggest television company operated by Slim
rival Ricardo Salinas.
Azteca took out adverts in Reforma on Tuesday saying the
columnist's information was wrong and "TV Azteca has no deal or
relationship with Andres Ramirez or his organization."
Ramirez told Reuters that he has no connection to any Grupo
Salinas companies, including Azteca.
Slim's America Movil, the biggest cellphone
company in Latin America, sells no-contract phones in the United
States through subsidiary Tracfone.
Tracfone had 22.4 million subscribers at the end of 2012. On
Monday the company agreed to buy Start Wireless Group, adding
about 1.4 million more subscribers.