Democracy, Mexican Style – by Stephen Lendman
What do these presidential elections all have in common: Mexico, 1988, US, 2000, US, 2004, Colombia and Peru, 2006 and the just concluded Mexican election on July 2? In each case, the outcome was “arranged” and known in advance before voters went to the polls. They’re what economist and media and social critic Edward Herman calls “Demonstration Elections” – the characterization and title he gave his 1980s book analyzing and documenting sham elections in the Dominican Republic, El Salvador and Vietnam. Professor Herman is an expert, and although his book was written over 20 years ago, it’s clear little has changed except for the added sophistication gained since then in the ability of officials to make elections turn out the way they wish. The same fraud occurs in many countries, and Professor Herman might have included many others besides the ones he chose but had he done so he’d have had to have written a book with no end.
Elections that only appear democratic happen throughout the developing world wherever the US has a strategic interest, which these days means everywhere. But they also happen in at least some developed countries, most notably the last two US presidential elections. We know it thanks to the superb investigative work of UK based journalist Greg Palast who analyzed those elections and documented how each was stolen in his important new book Armed Madhouse. Palast went on to state his belief that based on information he’s uncovered the plans are now in place to steal the 2008 US presidential election, and he explains how it’ll be done. It’s in his new book, reviewed in detail and can be read at sjlendman.blogspot.com.
With this sort of “democracy” in America, what could we expect south of the border where longtime Mexico observer and writer John Ross says the fine art of election theft was perfected. It certainly was in evidence on July 2 as that election just completed with final results announced on July 6 looked just like the one held there in 1988 when Cuauhtemoc Cardinas (son of the country’s last leftist president from 1932 – 38) ran against the US choice Carlos Salinas of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) that dominated Mexican politics as a virtual dictatorship for over 70 years until it lost the 2000 presidential election to current President Vincente Fox of the National Action Party (PAN). Both these parties represent wealth and power so it’s of little consequence to the US which of them runs the Mexican political system.
In 1988, Salinas was declared the winner with 51% of the vote in an election Cardenas clearly won. To achieve victory, the PRI never counted the votes from thousands of voting stations, stole and burned the contents of selected ballot boxes, falsified voter tally sheets and falsely claimed computers tabulating votes had crashed and couldn’t be restored for 10 days following the election by which time Salinas was declared the winner. Following the announcement, few people believed it, and hundreds of Cardenas’ supporters were killed in political violence opposing it in street protests over the next few years.
At this time, there’s no way to know what will happen next following the just-announced final vote count. After the Federal Electoral Institute (IFE) reported the final count on July 6 showing ruling PAN candidate Felipe Calderon with a small but insurmountable lead, opposition candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) rejected the official count as “flawed.” He called on his supporters to take to the streets in a mass show of strength on July 8 in both Mexico City’s historic central square as well as around the country to protest the announced result and demand a ballot-by-ballot recount. At present, with 99.91% of votes counted, Calderon was said to have 35.87% of the votes to Obrador’s 35.32%. But with the ruling authority in charge of the vote count, a miss, as they say, is as good as a mile, and that one-half percent difference is more than enough to likely assure another election theft.
Why? In claiming he won the Sunday election, Lopez Obrador cited many clear irregularities including manipulating preliminary vote totals, initially never counting 3 millions votes and then in hindsight only counting 2.5 million of them, ignoring 900,000 supposed void, blank and annulled ballots declared null, discarded and never included in the official totals, also never counting over 700,000 additional votes from missing precincts, denying the right to vote to many voters in strong Obrador precincts, and much more. As a result, Obrador announced “We have decided to challenge the election process and to ask the Electoral Court of the judicial branch of the federation for a recount of the votes because we cannot accept the results” officially announced by the IFE. Obrador said he will ask that the ballot boxes be opened and all votes be recounted. Campaign advisor Federico Arreola added “Building a democracy has cost a lot in this country and we are not going to give it up easily. There is no reason for Lopez Obrador to back out or defend a system that he doesn’t belong to.” He might have also added there’s no reason to accept an election result contrary to the voice of the Mexican people that no doubt will show they spoke for Mr. Obrador as their president and not Felipe Calderon if an honest tabulation of votes is made.
The procedure going forward now is that the Federal Electoral Institute will submit the final vote count to the Electoral Tribunal for approval on Sunday, July 9. Lopez Obrador then has four days to present his case for a recount. The Tribunal, known as Trife, then has until September 6 to issue a ruling. The new president takes office on December 1 so it’s possible the electoral challenge could change the result as now known. Trife has in the past reversed some local elections, but it’s very unlikely it will reverse this one given the overwhelming pressure on it which in Mexico may include real and intimidating physical threats officials take seriously based on past history. Also, according to Mexico expert George Grayson of the US College of William & Mary, Virginia, the rules for the Tribunal’s decision are vague – “It’s going to be somewhat like the US election in 2000, where you have the Supreme Court justices voting without clear guidelines.” If Grayson is right, look for lots of commotion and probable violence ahead but in the end the people of Mexico will again be denied their democratic right to elect the president of their choice – just the way it now is in the US. So much for democracy. In Mexico it’s democracy, Mexican style which is the same way it works for their dominant northern neighbor – none at all.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.