Evidence of the mammoth electoral fraud that took place in Mexico on July 1 continues to accumulate. Every day, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO), the candidate who allegedly came in second, and the three parties of his coalition are learning more about the massive fraud that took place virtually everywhere in Mexico before and during that election. Thousands of people are coming forward with testimonials of the pre-paid debit cards they were given, either by the supermarket chain Soriana or the financial company Monex, in exchange for voting for Enrique Pena Nieto, the candidate of the PRI (the Partido Revolucionario Institucional: The Institutional Revolution Party). Lopez Obrador maintains that the PRI purchased a minimum of five million votes not only via the widespread dissemination of those cards but also through outright gift giving such as food, building supplies, campaign memorabilia, money or a combination of all of the above. Preying upon the country's most vulnerable population, the PRI's voting tallies were uniformly higher in the Mexican countryside where the poorest Mexicans are most susceptible to vote buying. In the impoverished State of Chiapas, for example, the rural vote for the PRI increased 274% with respect to the previous election, with reported turnout at certain precincts, incredibly, surpassing even the 100% mark.
As more information and testimonials pour in, the magnitude of what actually transpired has become apparent. This realization has evolved gradually like an unfolding puzzle. As the pieces of that puzzle slowly fall into place, it becomes clear that the PRI implemented "creative" outside-of-the-law financial schemes, i.e., money laundering, so that it could fund its ambitious vote buying efforts. According to AMLO, they did this with an expenditure of US$310 million over the campaign maximum that by law Mexican candidates are authorized to spend. To keep the origin of these funds secret, the money, pilfered from state budgets where the PRI governs as well as a web of international connections and, it is alleged, drug sources, was triangulated between six front businesses and a Monex employee.
Some of the critical information AMLO and his supporters have used in making his case against Monex was provided by the conservative ruling party, the PAN (Partido Accion Nacional: The National Action Party). The president of that party, Gustavo Madero, appeared at a joint press conference with Jesus Zambrano, the head of the PRD (Partido de Revolucion Nacional: the National Revolution Party), the largest party in Lopez Obrador's coalition, to confirm the most unsavory aspects of the debit card buying scheme, calculated to be at least $700 million pesos ($60 million US) in Monex cards alone, not to mention the Soriana supermarket cards and pre-paid telephone cards distributed across the country. Other critical information about the triangulation of funds was provided by the investigative journalist Carmen Arestegui and her capable staff. Ms. Arestegui, who has a daily national news program, is well known throughout Mexico for her gutsy and hard hitting reporting. The PRI, meanwhile, is not amused by the adverse coverage it is receiving and, in its traditional style, is attempting to gag the press: on July 31, Dr. John Ackerman, the nation's foremost expert on electoral law, resigned from his position as commentator for MVS radio in protest against the station's refusal to air his pieces following the election at what appears to be the behest of Pena Nieto operatives. Ackerman is strongly in favor of the election being invalidated.
All of the aforementioned information, plus six carloads of evidence, has been submitted to the Federal Electoral Tribunal (el Tribunal Electoral del Poder Judicial de la Federacion: el TEPJF) for its scrutiny. It is this institution which will make the final decision regarding the viability of the election; i.e., either it will decree that the election was valid and officially declare Pena Nieto as Mexico's President-Elect or it will decree that it was invalid, in which case an interim president will be selected by the congress and new elections called in 15-18 months. It is AMLO's contention that the presidential election results as they now stand are spurious. Due to the PRI's broad-based fraud plus its massive overspending (hundreds of times over the legal limit), he and his supporters strongly believe that these results should be overturned. Unfortunately, however, the judges of the TEPJF are not known for their objectivity. The president of the tribunal, Alejandro Luna Ramos, a member of the PRI in his youth, has already publicly stated that Lopez Obrador should not expect to win in court what he was unable to win at the ballot box. Another tribunal member, Maria del Carmen Alanis Figueroa, was caught attending a meeting with Pena Nieto operatives. Because of their perceived bias, AMLO requested that they recuse themselves from the deliberations but without success. A third judge has taken it upon himself to inform Mexico's youth that they need to realize that their many anti-Pena Nieto rallies and marches will have no influence upon the court's final decision.
One of the more curious critics of the massive vote buying that took place was President Felipe Calderon, who publicly denounced the PRI's use of that tactic which he labeled as "unacceptable". These remarks were particularly surprising since Calderon himself was the beneficiary of fraud in 2006 used against the very same candidate, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. To make matters even more confusing, several days later Enrique Pena Nieto visited Felipe Calderon at Los Pinos (The Mexican White House) where the two of them were photographed together while discussing the transition from a Calderon to a Pena Nieto administration. Under normal circumstances such a meeting would be inappropriate. But considering Calderon's earlier comments, the ongoing controversy surrounding the July 1 election and that Pena Nieto has not officially been declared President Elect, this meeting was even more so.
It is important for the readers of this article to be aware that Mexico's President Elect has yet to be named. It is a common misconception that Enrique Pena Nieto, because he has the highest number of votes, is already the holder of that title. According to Mexican electoral law, that vote tally does not automatically make him President Elect. The responsibility for assigning that title belongs to the TEPJF and the TEPJF alone and it has until September 6 to make its final determination. That will only take place after it has resolved all of the complaints of electoral maleficence that have been brought before it which of course, includes Lopez Obrador's demand for the invalidation of the presidencial election.
So what happens between now and September 6, the deadline set for the Tribunal to validate or invalidate the election? Clearly, the massive marches and rallies against the imposition of Pena Nieto will continue. Many of them will be organized by the rapidly expanding "Yo Soy 132" (I Am #132, a reference to the initial anti-Pena Nieto protest by students of the Universidad Iberoamericana, a private Jesuit university in Mexico City) student movement. The broad based support of all age groups has further strengthened the movement. One example of a successful "Yo Soy 132" effort was its organization of thousands of supporters on July 27 and 28 to form a symbolic blockade around the headquarters of Televisa Chapultepec, Mexico's largest television conglomerate, in protest for its one-sided support of Enrique Pena Nieto and his "imposition" as Mexico's next president.
To make sure that AMLO's cause remains at the forefront of Mexicans' hearts and minds, a National Plan for the Defense of Democracy and the Dignity of Mexico is being implemented. The ambitious plan, announced by Lopez Obrador himself, incorporates both information giving and gathering as well as creative cultural events. On July 29, information tables were installed in the principal Mexican plazas, 142 cities in all, and the same will occur in Mexico's 32 state capitals on August 5. A video of Lopez Obrador's July 12 presentation outlining the justification for the invalidation of the election will be shown. Mexicans also will be encouraged to come forward with any additional evidence, proof, documents, photographs and/or videos which further substantiate the fraud. They will also be given the opportunity to sign a petition requesting the invalidation of the presidential election.
Along with these two events, an Artistic and Cultural Festival for Democracy will be held from August 18-26 in Mexico City's central plaza or Zocalo. It will include live music, drama, audiovisual and visual arts, storytelling and mural painting. In addition, there will be nationwide essay and documentary contests focusing upon themes relating to the July 1 election and its aftermath.
In the meantime, AMLO continues to receive increasingly negative coverage in most of the national media. More often than not, he is portrayed as a power hungry politician who, apart from being a poor loser, is willing to plunge the country into chaos to serve his own political ambitions. Despite the fact that he has consistently insisted that his movement be conducted by peaceful means and always within the letter of the law, the media often describe him as just the opposite, a violent person advocating violence. Violations of a host of electoral laws by the PRI, meanwhile, are routinely ignored on the nation's main television networks, Televisa and TV Azteca.
Out of what appears to be sheer desperation, the PRI leadership has now accused Lopez Obrador of triangulating money in his campaign as well. They claim to have concrete evidence of such a financial scheme but did not furnish any to reporters at the press conference where that announcement was made. As the same allegations were already made during the campaign itself, it stands to reason that if the PRI had any hard evidence to back up its claim, it would have presented such evidence long before now.
In most respects, the post electoral conflict goes well beyond the personal presidential ambitions of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. Whether Lopez Obrador would even be a candidate in the new round of elections is subject to speculation. The issue at hand, the invalidation of the July 1 election due to the PRI's blatant fraud, vote buying, coercion, intimidation and massive overspending, is of far more critical importance. The question is: will the TEPJF bow to the pressures of the country's elite and confirm a second spurious president in a row, or will it take the far more courageous stand of refusing to ignore the compelling evidence that has been brought before it by invalidating the July 1 presidential election results?
Please note: Critical additional information for this article was furnished by Kurt Hackbarth.