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Cablegate: Looking for Fraud in All the Wrong Places?

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71437
2006-07-14 18:01:00
06MEXICO3907
Embassy Mexico
CONFIDENTIAL
06MEXICO3834
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TAGS: PGOV PINR PREL MX
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 MEXICO 003907

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/13/2016
TAGS: PGOV PINR PREL MX
SUBJECT: LOOKING FOR FRAUD IN ALL THE WRONG PLACES?
REF: A. A) MEXICO 3834

B. B) MEXICO 3422

Classified By: ACTING POLITICAL CHIEF ALAN MELTZER, REASONS: 1.4(B/D).

1. (C) Summary: In a July 12 meeting with poloffs,
officials of the Federal Electoral Institute (IFE) offered an
impassioned defense of their work in conducting the July 2
presidential elections. Although they had not yet seen the
specific complaints submitted by the PRD (or, for that
matter, those of the PAN), they described in great detail the
safeguards incorporated into IFE's election process, many of
which were previously described at an SRE briefing for the
diplomatic corps (ref A). They refuted in detail several of
the specific allegations of fraud or irregularities singled
out by Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) in recent news
conferences. On July 13 we met with former IFE head Jose
Woldenberg, who opined that the election appeared to have
been conducted with complete transparency. He doubted AMLO's
allegations of widespread fraud, insisting that the dispute
simply reflected the understandable frustration felt by the
second place candidate in a very narrow race. He predicted
that the likeliest resolution would be that the electoral
tribunal (TEPJF) would order a partial recount of ballots,
and that he expected such a recount to confirm Calderon's
victory. Both contacts deeply lamented the damage that the
allegations of fraud were doing to IFE's hard-won
credibility. End summary.

2. (SBU) On July 12, poloffs met with IFE Counselor
Alejandra Latapi and IFE Director for International Affairs
Manuel Carrillo to discuss the most recent developments in
the dispute over the results of the Mexican presidential
election. From the outset of our meeting, Latapi asserted
that the election had been exemplary and that in several
important respects, the electoral system functioned even more
effectively this year than in previous years. She noted, for
example, that out of the over 130,000 precincts planned
nationwide, all but 11 actually operated on Election Day,
including every precinct planned for the conflictive state of
Chiapas; in 2000, IFE was unable to set up 104 of the
precincts planned nationwide.

Seeking to Set the Record Straight
----------------------------------

3. (SBU) In addition to detailing the considerable
safeguards protecting virtually every step of the election
process, she sought to refute several of the specific
allegations raised by AMLO in recent press conferences. She
first sought to rebut AMLO's allegation, based upon a video
he showed at a recent press conference, that ballot box
stuffing had occurred in the state of Guanajuato. She
explained that the person seen in the video depositing
multiple ballots in a ballot box -- who in fact was the
precinct president -- was simply relocating to the correct
box Chamber of Deputies ballots that inadvertently had been
deposited in the presidential ballot box. She noted that
such an action was legal and that all of the party
representatives -- including that of the PRD -- were aware of
the action at the time and did not object. (Note: AMLO
subsequently asserted that the PRD precinct representative
may have been bought off by the PAN, a charge strenuously
denied by the 19 year old woman who volunteered as his
representative in that precinct. End note.)

4. (SBU) As for AMLO's allegation that a discrepancy in the
tally sheet of a ballot box in Queretaro cost him votes,
Latapi said this discrepancy had been raised during the
district retabulation, the ballot box had been opened, the
votes recounted, and the discrepancy corrected. She noted
this was precisely the reason why the electoral law provided
for a district retabulation, and was an example of the system
working properly. She also sought to refute an allegation of
fraud in Coahuila, where the PRD identified a temporary IFE
employee claiming to have been pressured to change vote
tallies to Calderon's advantage, and to have seen Calderon's
vote totals grow immediately after an alleged power outage.
Latapi said that upon investigation, IFE found numerous
contradictions in his story. Rather than being hired as a
"capturista" to enter vote totals in the IFE data base, as he
had claimed, he had been hired for manual labor; in the early
morning hours on election night, he was asked to briefly
assist the district council by recording results being
dictated for a second, unofficial vote tally. Members of the

MEXICO 00003907 002 OF 003


district council, as well as representatives of four
political parties, certified that he never had access to the
official tally sheets and that there had been no power outage
during the evening.

5. (SBU) Finally, Latapi addressed the PRD's charge that IFE
had improperly opened ballot boxes being stored under
military guard in Tabasco, Puebla and Sonora. She asserted
that the electoral law did not preclude its reopening of
these ballot boxes, that they were reopened (and later
resealed) in the presence of the IFE district council and
party representatives, and that IFE had ordered them to be
opened because the PRD (and in some cases, the PAN) had
requested copies of tally sheets and incident reports therein
so as to be able to prepare its electoral challenge. She
emphasized that in no case did the district councils open the
sealed envelopes containing the executed ballots. (Note:
Former IFE President Jose Woldenberg told poloff that
although he believed IFE acted in good faith in opening the
ballot boxes, IFE would have been well-advised not to do so
without a court order, given the toxic, post-election
climate. In fact, late on July 12, IFE announced it would
not open additional further ballot boxes pending a TEPJF
order. End note.)

Allegations of Fraud May Undermine Electoral System
--------------------------------------------- ------

6. (C) Lapati told poloffs that her greatest concern was
that the recent allegations of electoral fraud risked
undermining citizen management of elections, which is the
very foundation of the Mexican electoral system. She
reminded us that each voting precinct is staffed by four
randomly selected and trained citizens, who were responsible
not only for checking voters' credentials and administering
the voting process but also for counting the votes. Because
the electoral framework was based on the principle that the
votes should be counted by citizens, rather than by civil
servants, the law authorized recounts only in the case of an
inconsistency or apparent error. She feared that the recent
allegations of electoral fraud would undermine public trust
in this citizen-based system, and was also concerned that
electoral workers could be harassed in their communities,
making it difficult to recruit volunteers in the future. She
also noted that PRD demands that IFE district councils
recount the votes in every ballot box were inconsistent with
TEPJF jurisprudence. The TEPJF has previously annulled lower
level elections where numerous ballot boxes had been
recounted without the legal criteria being met; in order to
avoid risking the annulment of this election, IFE had issued
strict instructions to recount votes only where the statutory
criteria were met.

Woldenberg Sees No Evidence of Widespread Fraud
--------------------------------------------- --

7. (C) Former IFE head and well-respected commentator Jose
Woldenberg told us that while errors undoubtedly had been
made in the vote count, he is aware of no evidence of an
organized plan to commit election fraud. Indeed, he believes
a widespread conspiracy to commit fraud would be impossible
given IFE's numerous safeguards. He characterized as
"fantasy" the PRD's allegation that the IFE's preliminary
count (PREP) software contained an algorithm that deducted
votes from AMLO, noting that every element of data entered
into the PREP could be corroborated against vote totals on
the tally sheets. He thought that overall, IFE had conducted
the elections very well and that in fact, there were few
differences between the way it conducted this year's election
and the way it conducted the 2000 election. The only
significant differences were that this year, the IFE adopted
stricter standards for incorporating vote totals into the
PREP, meaning that more precincts were excluded from the PREP
for closer examination by the district councils, and that in
2000 IFE had decided it would release the results of its
quick count on election night no matter how narrow the margin
between the candidates.

8. (C) Woldenberg's biggest concern over the present
situation is the damage unnecessarily being done to IFE's
reputation by what he considers unfounded allegations of
fraud. He noted that it had taken years for Mexico to
establish a credible electoral system and that no matter how
the TEPJF resolves the present dispute, a core of AMLO true
believers -- he called them a "community of faith" -- will

MEXICO 00003907 003 OF 003


always be convinced that IFE orchestrated or abetted fraud.

What's Next???
--------------

9. (C) Woldenberg sees the present situation playing out in
one of three possible scenarios. The most likely is that the
TEPJF -- perhaps after ordering a partial recount -- will
confirm Calderon as the winner; he doubts the TEPJF would
order a complete, nationwide recount. The second scenario,
which he considers highly improbable, is that a partial or
total recount would reverse the election results, resulting
in AMLO's election. The third scenario, which he also
considers highly improbable, is that the TEPJF would annul
the entire election. (Note: As we have previously reported
(ref B), TEPJF magistrates told poloffs several weeks before
the election that they would be very reluctant to annul the
entire election. End note.)

10. (C) Woldenberg believes that however the TEPJF rules,
its decision would soon end the stand-off. Assuming the
TEPJF confirms Calderon as President, AMLO's base of support
would quickly dwindle, although he might manage to convoke
one or two post-TEPJF demonstrations. He argued that the PRD
was essentially a party of "institutionality" with a great
deal invested in the system, particularly now that it has
emerged as the second force in Congress. He concluded that
it had a great deal to lose if it continued to press its case
extra-institutionally, and that much of the support AMLO
retains in the party hierarchy would melt away as senior PRD
office holders sought to protect their own interests.

Comment: AMLO Playing the Wrong Card?
--------------------------------------

11. (C) Frankly, in focusing on fraud where little or none
likely exists, AMLO not only is damaging one of Mexico's most
credible political institutions, but he may be undermining
the small chance he has of reversing the electoral results.
While we have seen no credible evidence of fraud, there is
some evidence that the incidence of human error was greater
in his strongholds, presumably because the level of education
in those regions tends to be lower: among the more than 2.5
million votes excluded from the PREP but included in the
final results (ref A), AMLO appears to have out-polled
Calderon by some 150,000 votes. Although we highly doubt a
recount would find enough errors to overcome Calderon's
current 243,000 lead, we suspect he is more likely to find
significant errors than significant fraud. For over 10
years, AMLO has advanced his political career in part by
knowing how to take political advantage of situations in
which he has been wronged. In the present case, however, his
tendency to consider himself the victim of a conspiracy may
turn out to be his Achilles heel.


Visit Mexico City's Classified Web Site at
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/wha/mexicocity

GARZA

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