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La Jornada Editorial: Mexico - The Vote, Trashed

Mexico: The Vote, Trashed

Editorial of La Jornada
Translated by Toni Solo

The ballot boxes full of votes found yesterday by a citizen in the rubbish dump of Bordo de Xochiaca, the piecemeal disappearance of opposition votes in the Preliminary Election Results Program (PREP), the unlikely trends registered in the updating of that instrument during Sunday night through Monday morning, as well as the sudden appearance of two and a half million votes placed by the Federal Elctoral Institute (IFE) in an "anomalies file", whose make-up clearly favours Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, in contradiction to what has so far been announced by the electoral body, among other elements bring to mind a key date for Mexican society in its long struggle for democracy: June 6th 1988, that State-fixed election in which the public power de-legitimised the popular vote to impose Carlos Salinas de Gortari in the presidency with his anti-national, anti-people program.

For many months before that vote, the federal government dedicated itself to slandering and reviling the candidacy of Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas and to backing with public resources, obscenely, massively, the candidate anointed by Miguel de la Madrid. The day of the election, the citizenry faced a catalogue of foul practices that still were not enough to fake a credible victory for Salinas and so the official in charge of the vote crashed the system to allow time for data manipulation. In the days that followed, people were to find alongside highways and on waste land the remains of voting ballots and other electoral paperwork, carrying expressions of the popular will that were never counted. The votes that were preserved were never checked. The regime refused and some years later, with the approval of the National Action Party deputies, coordinated in those days by Diego Ferenandez de Cevallos, the Salinocracy destroyed the boxes containing the votes.

Whoever bets on society failing to remember is mistaken. The episodes referred to are present in the collective memory and become vivid at the sight of the enormous shabbiness of public officials' behaviour in the months prior to last Sunday's presidential election and at the obvious incompetence or lack of will of the IFE to guarantee an equitable electoral process, transparent and in accordance with the law. The worst fears of manipulation of the elections are confirmed with each hour that has passed following the end of voting, with every public blather of the electoral officials, with every television broadcast that bears the unmistakable trace of the official line, with every discrepancy in the data and every inconsistency in the behaviour of those charged with handling the vote. One has to compare the seals of normality and transparency granted by the Aznarist election observer sent by the European Union with the reality of the ballot boxes scattered in a rubbish tip, with the evidence of opposition votes disappered by the PREP and with the signs of electronic manipulation - Hildebrand's algorithm, as it has been popularly dubbed - in the figures of the IFE.

The script is easy to predict: in the next few hours Luis Carlos Ugalde (1) will go out and say what happened at Bordo de Xochiaca is "an isolated case", that the piecemeal theft of opposition votes does not alter the general trend and that the PREP is impeccable. What is so offensive and depressing is that this person and other functionaries of the governing clique are trying to stretch the credulity of citizens of all political persuasions to the point of making them swallow these millstones. The serious thing is that in a few hours the district counts will begin under circumstances in which the IFE finds itself bereft of prestige, moral authority and credibility. The vices of the actual election can now be added to the pre-election shabbiness and a now obvious unscrupulous manipulation of the expression of the popular will; it is now clear the irregularities serve to complete government and media partiality; the "technical draw" between Lopez Obrador and Felipe Calderon is revealed as a scenario constructed from the seats of political, economic and electoral power to facilitate a "triumph" for the latter that is steadily becoming more doubtful and suspicious.

The district recounts are the last chance to correct the self-evident alterations suffered by the mass of votes and the possibility looms, as a consequence, that the IFE may not be able to hand over even minimally credible results and that the election ought to be settled in the Electoral Tribunal of the Federal Judicial Power (TEPJF). Those are the established legal channels and all the players should stick to them. Last Sunday, the citizenry gave a lesson in democratic culture and civility; the arbiters of the contest, on the other hand dirtied and clouded the voting process in what constitutes an exasperating insult for the country and its historic memory. The first of the alternating presidencies, the government of "change" is ending in this way with a blatant intervention in the polls. For their part, the current officials of the IFE, a body brought into being with the effort and sacrifice of innumerable Mexican democrats, have dragged it back to 1988: today as 18 years ago, an indeterminate part of the people's verdict has ended up in trash dumps, either real ones or cyber ones, and such a regression is flatly unacceptable.

1. Luis Carlos Ugalde is head of the IFE.


Translated from Spanish into English by toni solo, a member of Tlaxcala, the network of translators for linguistic diversity (**). This translation is Copyleft.

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