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Massive Mexican March to Demand Election Recount

From the radio newsmagazine
Between The Lines
http://www.btlonline.org

Between the Lines Q&A
A weekly column featuring progressive viewpoints
on national and international issues
under-reported in mainstream media
for release July 17, 2006

Mexicans Organize Historic March to Demand Presidential Election Recount

Interview with John Ross, journalist and author, conducted by Scott Harris

Listen in RealAudio:
http://www.btlonline.org/ross072106.ram

One week after Mexicans went to the polls to vote for president, hundreds of thousands of supporters of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, of the Party of Democratic Revolution (PRD), converged on Mexico City's Zocalo or central square, to demand a recount in one of the most hotly contested elections in that nation's history. A preliminary count had Lopez Obrador's opponent, Filipe Calderon, of the conservative National Action Party (PAN) winning by some 400,000 votes. A second count of the July 2 vote narrowed the margin between the two candidates to 243,000 of 41 million cast.

But Lopez Obrador has criticized Mexico's Federal Electoral Institute for not counting almost 1 million ballots, which poll workers claimed could not be deciphered. The candidate, a longtime advocate for Mexico's poor, laid out numerous other election anomalies and screened video tapes to illustrate what he maintains is evidence of ballot tampering. The Federal Electoral Tribunal has until Aug. 31st to rule on Lopez Obrador's demand for a recount. The case can also be appealed to the Supreme Court.

In his Mexico City rally , Lopez Obrador announced plans for a national march to demand a vote-by-vote recount. The protest march will conclude in the capital on July 16. Between The Lines' Scott Harris spoke with journalist and author John Ross, who has covered Mexico for decades. Ross, reached in Mexico City, reports on the aftermath of Mexico's contested presidential election.

JOHN ROSS: On Saturday, July 8, 2006, Andres Manuel called for marches to begin on Wednesday, July 12 in all 300 of the electoral districts in Mexico, one end of the country to the other end of the country -- to converge on Mexico City Sunday, July 16th, for one more mega-march through the city in an attempt to pressure the Supreme Electoral Tribunal into opening up the ballot boxes and counting the votes one by one.

This election was stolen in a lot of different ways, but one of the real ways that it can be shown who was the actual winner is to count the ballots one by ine. This has been done in a lot of other countries -- recently in close elections in Costa Rica, Italy and Germany, they counted the votes one by one.

The ruling (National Action Party) is of course reluctant to allow that to happen because they know they are going to lose. So, we have this kind of face off right now.

This country is absolutely divided right down the center, between the industrial north and the indigenous , impoverished , but resource-rich south. Lopez Obrador took 16 states, most of them in the south of Mexico -- only one state went to the PAN and some states in the Pacific north of the country as well. And the PAN took the states in the central and northern part of the country, 16 states as well. There are more people in the south than there are in the north, so the PRD now represents in this instance, 54 percent of the population.

This is an election that has been, from the very beginning, about poor vs. rich. Lopez Obrador's slogan has always been "the poor first." Filipe Calderon represents the fat cats, represents neo-liberalism, represents the pain that neo-liberalism has inflicted upon this country. The choice is obvious. It's an election that has split the county right down the line geographically, politically, economically and racially. This is definitely a face-off between the people who are the color of the earth, as subcomandante Marcos (of the Zapatista National Liberation Army) names them -- and people who are the color of money.

It's perhaps the most vital election that Mexico has suffered through since the Mexican revolution , and perhaps even that doesn't describe it.

It's also an election all about Washington and Washington has been plenty involved in this thing. It's an election about where Mexico stands geo-politically , is it to continue servile policies that both the PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party that ruled Mexico for 71 years before 2000) and the PAN have inflicted upon this country in obeisance to George Bush and Washington? Bush has already recognized Calderon. Or will Mexico resume its traditional position as being part of Latin America and align itself with the new left democracies in Latin America? And I think that's most of all what worries Washington and Bush at this moment.

BETWEEN THE LINES: John Ross, when you look at the allegations of fraud here and the declarations of fraud by Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, what's the most compelling evidence here that you see?

JOHN ROSS: Well, there's a lot of compelling evidence. We began with a preliminary vote count in which the results were deliberately cooked to make it appear that Calderon won the election. Three million votes were removed from the preliminary vote count (PREP) by the Federal Electoral Institute. It's director Luis Carlos Ugalde; he never bothered to tell anybody until he was quizzed on a morning television show and said, "Oh yeah, we put three million votes that seemed to have certain inconsistencies and withdrew them from the PREP." That was to give, of course, the rest of the world the idea that Calderon had won the election.

The 16 states that the PRD and Lopez Obrador took mostly in the south have more votes for senators and congressional representatives than they do for president. And if we look at the PAN states, the 16 states in the north, there are more votes for president than there are for senators and congress people. This is inexplicable, and the only way to guarantee that there is electoral democracy here is to open up the ballot boxes and to count the votes.

BETWEEN THE LINES: If Lopez Obrador and his supporters do not get the recount that they are demanding, what are the consequences for Mexico?

JOHN ROSS: Well, the consequences for Mexico are very, very serious. Calderon, if he is allowed to become president, will be a despised person. He will not have any kind of control over the rest of the country. As I said, half of the country is now aligned along class lines. If you could put the "class war" on the ballot , that's what we just had.

So, we're looking at years of resistance here if indeed Calderon is imposed upon the people. It's going to have economic ramifications and it's going to radicalize this country. It's going to put an unstable state on your border. And it's not going to do much to alleviate the immigration problem.

Ross' latest book is titled, "Murdered by Capitalism," published by Nation Books. Read Ross's articles online at www.counterpunch.org

*************

Scott Harris is executive producer of Between The Lines, which can be heard on more than 40 radio stations and in RealAudio and MP3 on our website at http://www.btlonline.org. This interview excerpt was featured on the award-winning, syndicated weekly radio newsmagazine, Between The Lines for the week ending July 21, 2006. This Between The Lines Q&A was compiled by Scott Harris and Anna Manzo.

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