via Instituto Nacional Electoral (INE)

Mexico’s top electoral official was forced to apologize after a recording of a phone conversation was leaked of him mocking the country’s indigenous groups.

Lorenzo Cordova, head of Mexico’s National Electoral Institute (INE), says he was illegally recorded during a private phone call last month. A recording of the conversation, which went viral on YouTube this week, features Cordova mocking Mexican indigenous leaders with an affected broken Spanish.

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“I’m not gonna lie, I’m gonna tell you how this dude talked: I, great chief of Chichimeca nation,” Cordova told INE colleague Edmundo Jacobo Molina, trying to contain his laughter.

On Tuesday, Cordova issued a public apology. But he also played the victim card, claiming he was the target of a politically motivated wiretap that was strategically released days before Mexico’s midterm elections.

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“As president of the National Electoral Institute, I regret that a few days before celebrating the elections, there’s an attempt to discredit this institution through illegal sources,” Cordova said.

The recording comes at a time when Mexicans are expressing growing frustration with the country’s political leaders amid a string of corruption scandals and the abduction and death of 43 college students last year, allegedly at the hands of police in cahoots with drug leaders.

Vidal Romero, the chair of the political science department at ITAM, a private research university in Mexico City, said the recording not only reflected some attitudes in political circles toward indigenous people, but also served as a reminder of the bare-knuckle tactics in Mexican politics.

“The timing is obvious,” he said. “The espionage part reminds us of the past hegemony of the ruling party, but this type of conduct now applies to all parties and we now live in a time with great technological advancements, where anyone with money can hire people for acts of espionage.”

Romero believes the release of the recording was intended as a direct message to INE and its director. In recent months, the electoral institute has repeatedly issued hefty fines against Mexico’s Green Party (PVM) — a political ally of the ruling party (PRI) — for not complying with electoral propaganda guidelines and giving away discount gift cards in exchange for votes.