News Analysis: The Mexico Election: Obrador is No Gore

By Ted Vincent, Special to the Planet
Friday July 14, 2006

The July 2 elections in Mexico saw the Partido Revolucionario Democratico (PRD) poll 35.31 percent of the announced presidential votes, a rise for this moderately left “BCA del Sur” from 17 percent in the 2000 contest. 

PRD candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador believed his party came out on top in the five way race, but Felipe Calderon Hinojosa of the ruling Partido Accion National (PAN) took 35.89 percent, or so the tallies said. 

The media has called Calderon the winner. If so, it is a victory for a Harvard educated adherent to the International Monetary Fund and the North American Free Trade Agreement. 

Confident supporters of AMLO, as Obrador is known for his initials, flocked on election night to the Zocalo square in the capital for a victory celebration, which turned into a rally at which their candidate demanded that all votes be recounted, not by computer, nor by tally sheets of the precincts, but by hand. 

In the dim midnight light AMLO called for a mass Saturday rally in the Zocalo to protest the announced results. 

An hour before the Saturday event the Zocalo was packed and “rivers of people” still trudged toward the square. The METRO (BART) announced, on the streaming internet of El Universal, that the Zocalo station platform was dangerously packed with people exiting and riders were urged to exit at earlier stations.  

By the time Lopez Obrador spoke, most streets in the historic central district were jammed. An estimated 250,000 people had gathered, according to Mexico City sources, although the San Francisco Chronicle said 100,000. 

Lopez Obrador was barely heard by many in the noisy audience. 

He declared Wednesday would see a protest march on the capital from cities across the nation to demand a recount and to bring the evidence of “fraud,” such as AMLO ballots found in garbage cans, precincts in strongly PAN districts with more voters than people on the rolls, and purchasing of votes and ballot stuffing—incidents of the latter two actions being caught on tape by AMLO supporters. 

A suspicious vote count trend was noted by PRD computer techs. Calderon had an early 7 point lead (as in elections everywhere the upper class precincts are early). 

Obrador cut it to 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, then less than a point, at which he stopped gaining. AMLO flatlined with a third of the votes still out—many being in his capital city barrios. His supporters spoke of the 1988 election. 

A computer crash in that presidential contest occurred just as PRD candidate Cuauhtemoc Cardenas appeared to have won, but when the computers came back online ten days later Cardenas was second. 

Conservative pundants argue that 2006 can’t repeat 1988 because elections have been cleansed, and they point to the PAN presidential victory in 2000. But that election lacked left vs. right tension. 

It featured an all out effort by a wide swath of the Mexican people to end the 71-year rule of the corrupt Partido Revolucionario Institutional. Until 2000, PAN was a joke. It was “the car party” of the minority that owned cars. Its rallies were parades of cars rather than people. But a rally for PAN witnessed in Cuernavaca in 2000 featured a parade of cars alongside of which marched thousands of people—such was the desire to get rid of PRI. 

From first hand observations of the 1994 and 2000 presidential elections and a number of state contests over the past decade, it can be said that when elections are stolen in Mexico the method is much the same as it is in Florida and Ohio. Many tricks are involved. Which explains why Lopez Obrador insisted upon a “vote by vote” recount that involved the precinct tally sheet. 

While observing the closing of a precinct in a Veracruz governor’s race, I heard a man announce five votes for a small splinter party; and the official with the tally sheet marked “05.” The PRI won this precinct with 132, noted as “132.” Another small party had 7 votes, noted as “07.” Then came the PRD count. It received 92. The official wrote “02,” and put a tiny tail on the 0. I spoke up and asked if the “9” didn’t deserve a longer tail. The official put a tiny bit more tail on his 0, then motioned to two nasty looking hombres who glared at me, and I decided to go for coffee. 

Critics call the mass rallies orchestrated by Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador rabble rousing. His defenders say they are needed when the media is against you, and small gatherings of the party are hard to hold peacefully. 

“How dare you be against our government!” shouted thugs slugging people at a PRD rally a few years ago in Acapulco.  

Across Mexico over 400 activists of the party of Lopez Obrador have been assassinated, or died mysterious deaths since the late 1980s. Two poll workers for the Party were added to the victims list this past July 2. 

The intimidation factor facing the PRD was apparent in my drive through 17 Mexican states prior to the 1994 presidential election. PRI propaganda was common on roadside homes and businesses, and a few upscale neighborhoods had PAN signs, but PRD was virtually invisible outside of the capital. 

One exception was the PRD-plastered town of Cuajinicuilapa in Guerrero. Locals explained that they broke with the old ruling party after discovery that PRI officials had stolen for their own homes a large allotment of government cement, intended for public works. The town elected a PRD legislator in 1999, and a PRD congressperson on July 2. 

The 52-year-old Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has been building his party with rallies since his years of activism in his home state of Tabasco, which was solidly PRD on July 2. Mexico City demonstrations are credited with helping him become city mayor. Between 2000 and 2006 the PRD upped its number of federal deputies from 68 to 158 (preliminary count). 

The Partido Revolucionaro Democratico is now the second biggest party in congress, behind PAN (209) and ahead of the declining PRI (112). The Senate is similarily proportioned. 

A worry for Mexico is that both PRD and PAN are narrowly based geographically. The PRD stronghold is the Districto Federal and 6 southern states, where deputies (excluding seats by proportional representation) are: PRD 81, PAN 20, PRI 9. But across 15 northern states the count is PRD 3, PAN 88, PRI 23. 

AMLO’s national protest march is a reaching out to the north, which includes the six states bordering the United States. 

The PRD didn’t win a singe deputy post in this area where enforcers against labor organizers in the factories quash left politics as well. 

It may appear that Mexico mirrors the United States in having regions of Red and Blue states but the parties attached to the colors in Mexico represent much greater political differences.