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Message Randolph Holhut
DUMMERSTON, Vt. - If only Al Gore and John Kerry could have been more like Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD).

In the face of widespread fraud and trickery in the July 2 Mexican presidential election, Lopez Obrador and his party haven't conceded. Hundreds of thousands have taken to the streets to protest, and Lopez Obrador has gone to court to appeal the result.

He says there is evidence of computerized manipulation of election results and other voting fraud. He wants authorities to conduct a manual recount of all 42 million votes cast in the July 2 election.

Unfortunately, the press is behaving the same way it did in Florida in 2000 and Ohio in 2004 - pretending that a free and fair election took place and writing off the complaints of fraud as whining by sore losers.

But that's not the only similarity between Florida 2000, Ohio 2004 and Mexico 2006. Some of the people that helped George W. Bush prevail in 2000 have been working in Mexico to help Felipe Calderon and his ruling National Action Party (PAN) in 2006.

Calderon is claiming victory over Lopez Obrador, but the margin of victory for the PAN was just 244,000 votes, or about 0.6 percent.

According to investigative journalist Greg Palast, who extensively documented the election fraud that took place in Florida in 2000, the same firm that "scrubbed" the voter rolls of black voters in Florida did the same thing in Mexico.

ChoicePoint, a Georgia-based firm, wrongly removed tens of thousands of black voters off the Florida rolls in 2000, people who were unlikely to vote for Bush. In Mexico, voters in poorer neighborhoods that were PRD supporters also found themselves off the voting list. There were reports of long lines in neighborhoods that backed the PRD, but polling places there somehow ran out of ballots.

In Florida, there were supposedly 179,000 blank or unreadable ballots and 88 percent of them came from black voting districts. In Mexico, there were 827,000 ballots that were blank or unreadable, and many of them came from districts that supported the PRD.

Palast now reports that the International Republican Institute, an arm of the Republican Party funded by the U.S. government, also provided tactical training to PAN operatives. Not much of a surprise there, since Calderon's party is strongly supported by the Bush administration.

So, while the PAN claims a free and fair election was held in Mexico, it refuses to recount the ballots or explain why so many voters were purged from the election lists or why there were so many blank ballots.

This isn't the first time that a left-of-center candidate in Mexico has had a presidential election stolen from him. The PRD apparently won in 1988, and the PAN and the then-ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) collaborated on manipulating the results to give the PRI candidate, Carlos Salinas, the victory.

Mexicans have little reason to not believe the same thing is happening again. But unlike Gore and Kerry, Lopez Obrador and his party are not going to roll over and allow this election to be stolen.

This election has exposed the deep divisions in Mexican society. The gap between rich and poor in Mexico is considerable and has grown over the past decade. The rich support Calderon. The poor support Lopez Obrador. Calderon supports economic policies that benefit the wealthy. Lopez Obrador wants the government to redistribute more of the nation's wealth to poorer Mexicans.

Lopez Obrador is not as much of a leftist firebrand as Venezuela's Hugo Chavez or Bolivia's Evo Morales. He is more like Brazil's Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, someone who will be able to balance the demands of the wealthy with the needs of the poor. But another left-of-center government in Latin America is not what the Bush administration wants, and it is safe to say that the United States will do what it can to prevent Lopez Obrador from taking power.

The Mexican courts have until Sept. 6 to officially certify the election results. In the face of so many documented election irregularities, it is vital that every vote is counted and every attempt to make this election truly free and fair is taken. The alternative is unrest and chaos by Mexicans who are not about to accept another tainted election victory by a conservative candidate.
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Randolph T. Holhut has been a journalist in New England for more than 25 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books). He can be reached at randyholhut@yahoo.com.
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