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Mexican Democracy at a Crossroads: Will It Be Able To Survive YetAnother Presidential Electoral Fraud?

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Can lightning strike twice in the same place? Impossible? Not where
Mexican politics are concerned. That's just what happened in the recent
Mexican elections. In 2006, in a razor-thin election (a 0.56% difference),
electoral fraud kept the left-of-center candidate Andr-s Manuel L-pez
Obrador from assuming the presidency. On July 1, 2012 it happened all over
again. Although the statistical separation between L-pez Obrador and his
closest rival, Enrique Pena Nieto, was larger this time (6.51%), so was the
magnitude of the fraud perpetrated against him. Whatever else was in
dispute in both elections, it was perfectly clear that the Mexican power
elite, including former presidents Carlos Salinas de Gortari, Vicente Fox
and the two major television networks, Televisa and Tv Azteca, would do
anything and everything to prevent L-pez Obrador from becoming president of
the nation, including committing large-scale fraud.

Long before the July 1 elections, it was clear to both of the major
opposition candidates - L-pez Obrador from the center-left PRD (Party of
the Democratic Revolution) party and Josefina Vasquez Mota of the
right-wing Nacional Action Party (PAN) that the Institutional Revolutionary
Party (PRI) and its standard-bearer Enrique Pena Nieto were violating one
electoral law after the other. Its major, but far from only, sin was its
massive and flagrant exceeding of campaign spending limits, using money
illegally funneled into the campaign from state budgets where the PRI
controls the governorships. Unlike the US, where the Supreme Court
Citizens' United decision has opened the floodgates to unlimited campaign
spending, Mexico has clearly defined spending limits, the penalties for
exceeding which range from fines in more minor cases to the revocation of
the offender's candidacy. Even though both of those candidates, in
particular L-pez Obrador, made official complaints to The Federal Electoral
Institute (IFE) regarding the PRI's flagrant overspending, nothing was
done. In fact, L-pez Obrador was told that the IFE would be unable to
investigate his allegations until AFTER the election had taken place. So,
the PRI's spending and gift-giving spree continued unabated.

And how was that money allocated? Apart from a nasty campaign of *guerra
sucia* (dirty war) attack ads, a sleazy redux of the 2006 character
assassination of L-pez Obrador masterminded by America's own Dick Morris,
it was spent on vote buying on a massive scale. Most of that vote buying
was directed at the poorest and most vulnerable segments of Mexican
society. There is significant evidence to demonstrate that thousands
of such voters were given supermarket debit cards from a chain called
Soriana containing varying monetary amounts to be spent in the store in
exchange for their commitment to vote for Pena Nieto. Those amounts ranged
from the equivalent of US$8 to US$60. There was a run on key Soriana
stores in several locations the day after the elections, in particular in
Pena Nieto's home state of the Estado de Mexico. Among other things, many
disgruntled people complained that their cards either had no money on them
or contained amounts far less than the PRI had promised. The scandal has
grown to such proportions that it soon became known throughout Mexico as *Soriana
Gate. *

Another similar type of debit card issued en masse by the Grupo Financiero
Monex (The Monex Financial Group) was used to purchase additional votes for
the PRI. The head of Monex is Emilio Gamboa Patr-n, a longtime PRI party
operative and the main proponent of the 2007 "Televisa Law" which further
consolidated the power of Mexico's television duopoly. It is to be recalled
that, during the campaign, the British newspaper *The* *Guardian *revealed
the existence of a secret arrangement with Televisa dating back to 2005 to
provide favorable news coverage of Pe-a Nieto and to defame L-pez Obrador,
paid for by funds from the State of Mexico, where Pe-a Nieto was then the
governor, and the secret presidential fund of then-president Fox. Fox
betrayed his party, the PAN, in this election to support Pe-a Nieto's

In addition to outright vote buying, numerous other anomalies also took
place. In fact, L-pez Obrador maintains that the numbers in as many as
113,855, or close to 80% of the 143,437 polling places installed throughout
Mexico on election day do not add up.

It is also important to remember that thousands of voters were turned away
from the polls on voting day due to insufficient ballots. This was
especially true for those who were outside their normal voting place of
venue and were attempting to vote at special polling places set up
specifically for voters in that situation. Coincidentally, L-pez Obrador
won these special precincts handily, presumably because people in transit,
in places where they are unknown, are less susceptible to vote buying than
people voting at or near their places of residence. Pe-a Nieto's margin
came largely from rural areas, where electoral observation is more
difficult and poverty more acute, especially at the thousands of new rural
precincts inexplicably set up by the IFE for this election, despite the
fact that non-urban population has declined 2% in Mexico since 2006.
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With very few exceptions, the Mexican media strongly supported Pena Nieto
and continually showed him in the most favorable light possible both before
and during the election campaign. Most of the polls that the PRI and its
media supporters utilized throughout the campaign put Pena Nieto far ahead
of L-pez Obrador, usually in the high double digits. As even the IFE's
final tally demonstrated (a 6.51 % difference), those polls proved to be
bogus. For months, Enrique Pena Nieto had been portrayed as the
invincible, soap-opera candidate that no one could possibly beat. One of
the strongest proponents of that perceived invincibility, the newspaper and
television channel *Milenio*, whose daily poll tracking never varied in
showing Pe-a Nieto with a twenty-point lead despite a series of scandals
and the birth of the "Yo Soy 132" student activist movement, formally
apologized for misleading the public once the elections were over. By that
time, however, the damage had been done.

No wonder Andres Manuel L-pez Obrador is seriously questioning the
election results and has not as yet conceded. Despite the pressure he is
receiving to accept his defeat (Enrique Pena Nieto has publicly called him
a "sore loser"), L-pez Obrador is within his legal rights to contest the
elections both with the IFE and with the Federal Elections Tribunal (the
TRIFE), which is the only entity legally qualified to declare a winner. To
do otherwise would be to disrespect the will of close to 16,000,000
Mexicans who voted for him on July 1. What is more, and in large part due
to the rise of the social networks with their digital eyes and ears, never
in Mexican electoral history has a fraud been so amply documented in video
and documentary evidence. Lopez Obrador's final decision regarding the
legal strategy to be pursued will be announced at a press conference this
Thursday evening, July 12th. All eyes and ears will be awaiting his
remarks. The viability of Mexico's fragile democracy could very well
depend upon what he has to say.


*Additional information for this article was furnished by Kurt Hackbarth.

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I am a retired activist living in Oaxaca, Mexico. Originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, I became a Mexican citizen in 2008. Before retiring, I directed a study abroad program for US university students in both Mexico and Chile. I am both (more...)

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