The people of Oaxaca swept away 81 years of misrule by the Revolutionary Institutional Party (PRI) with a massive voter turnout for the election on Sunday. For all state offices—governor, mayors and state legislators—the Coalition United for Peace and Progress (CUPP) won more than 90 percent of the posts.
The people of Oaxaca swept away 81 years of misrule by the Revolutionary Institutional Party (PRI) with a massive voter turnout for the election on Sunday. For all state offices—governor, mayors and state legislators—the Coalition United for Peace and Progress (CUPP) won more than 90 percent of the posts. CUPP brought together the parties of National Action (PAN), the Revolutionary Democratic Party (PRD), Convergencia, and the Workers Party (PT), who decided among themselves which party would offer a candidate for which position on behalf of CUPP.
Gabino Cué Monteagudo of the Convergencia Party declared victory in the Oaxaca governor’s race at 9:00 PM Sunday in a speech delivered at the fountain of Siete Regiones in Colonia Reforma of Oaxaca City. He offered his thanks to Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, previously of the PRD, who mentored Cue in their visit to every municipality in Oaxaca state; and to Felipe Calderon whose PAN joined the Oaxaca coalition. No single party in Oaxaca has the strength to outvote the PRI, but together, with the assistance of two and a half million voters, they rejected despised Governor Ulises Ruiz’s choice to succeed himself, along with most of his other hand-chosen PRI candidates. In cities which had been plagued by conflict, like Oaxaca, Zaachila and Juchitán, the PRI was defeated. The new mayor of Oaxaca will be Luis Ugartechea Begue.
Accompanied by thousands of followers Cué marched to the city zócalo to celebrate. Earlier, on the basis of exit poll results, CUPP declared a victory so that the PRI would immediately find itself in the eye of a popular uprising if they tried to wrest away the victory by fraud. Cué was declared winner by exit polls at 7:30, and by 8:00 P.M. streets rocked with fireworks, car horns and the Oaxaca love of fiesta. According to one Oaxaca resident, “We went out to see if we needed to join an anti-PRI fraud brigade and instead we found a celebration.”
Forty-seven year old Cué Monteagudo, was cheated of his electoral win against Ulises Ruiz Ortiz (URO) in 2004; this year coalition members planned their strategy and forcefully declared they would not permit another fraud. Section 22 of the National Education Workers Union agreed in its political congress to support a free and fair vote. On July 2, the teachers withdrew their massive strike encampment from the capital city’s zócalo. In its stead, the union issued a call for a social insurrection in the event of PRI fraud. State Police began to patrol the streets, supposedly to guarantee security for the two and half million voters.
Azael Santiago Chepi, leader of the union, affirmed that the union’s state assembly resolved at that same meeting to act as guarantor of the popular will before, during and after the vote. He explained that the democratic teachers movement would design a plan of action specifically to combat crookedness and denounce electoral crimes, blackmail, repression, intimidation and deceit on election day, as well as observe at the polls. “In an organized way, with the people, we will raise our voices and repudiate irregularities,” he insisted. That determination was reinforced by each party in the coalition. The federal senator for the PAN, Santiago Creel Miranda, reaffirmed that no electoral fraud would be permitted in Oaxaca.
On voting day thousands observed at the polls, including Oaxacans, other nationals, and foreigners. After suffering years of misrule by the PRI, with its accompanying corruption, repression, and violence, the state had become a focus for national security. Most remember the uprising of 2006 against URO, which lasted five months. According to data released by the National Council for Evaluation of Policy and Development (Coneval), 38.1% of the state’s population suffer undernourishment, and 68% lack resources such as homes or land. Poverty affects more than two-thirds of the population; 7% of all Mexico’s poor live in Oaxaca..
Opposition opinion has long held that this backwardness was deliberate policy on the part of the governors of the state including URO, who maintains an iron hand extending from the lowest caciques charged with controlling remote villages, to the legislature and courts of the state. There is no separation of powers nor transparency for how public funds are spent. Within this context, URO had expressed his desire to move to the national position of leadership of the PRI party at the close of his term in December, a situation which depended on his state remaining in PRI hands.
The PRI intends to recover the national presidency in the election of 2012. The current Mexican president, Felipe Calderon of the PAN, is regarded as a failure by nearly everyone, particularly due to his inability to control the increased presence of narco-cartels involving thousands of murders and extortion. 2012 presents an interesting moment for those who want neither the PAN nor the PRI for Mexico’s next president.
The PRI may hold an advantage despite its overall unsavory reputation. In this election for governors in twelve states, Aguascalientes (presently PAN), Chihuahua, Durango, Hidalgo, Puebla, Quintana Roo, Sinaloa, Tamaulipas, Tlaxcala (PAN), Veracruz, and Zacatecas (PRD), the PRI won all but Oaxaca, Durango, where the difference is .2%, and Sinaloa. Final results are not yet sure for Aguascalientes or Veracruz. Nine of these states are currently governed by the PRI.
Coalitions against the PRI formed in six states—Chiapas, Durango, Hidalgo, Oaxaca, Puebla, and Sinaloa. In Hidalgo, the coalition defeat will be contested in the courts. Two million people—or a third of Mexican voters—were registered to participate. After election results were released, the national leader of the PRI, Beatriz Paredes, claimed that the PRI had done very well by winning in nine states. However, the three states it lost were the ones with the largest populations, so if one thinks ahead to 2012 when Mexico elects its president by direct popular vote, the PRI actually lost voters.
Pre-election Dirty Tricks
Carmen Aristegui, a journalist broadcasting nation-wide on Noticias MVS, released damning telephone recordings of Governor Ruiz speaking with three persons. The most grave was a discussion with José Luis Echeverría Morales. Echeverria is a lawyer who rose through the bureaucratic ranks to become president of Oaxaca’s State Electoral Institute (IEE). The recorded discussion centered on the voting ballots: Echeverria ordered 70,000 extras, to be used by the PRI. CUPP demanded that the IEE president resign.
Another of the phone intercepts recorded Raúl Castellanos Hernández, media coordinator for the PRI candidate for governor Eviel Perez Mangaña, and URO. After the expose, Raúl Castellanos sustained that his conversation with URO was manipulated and taken out of context. “It’s part of the uncontrolled dirty war by the federal government” and “a clear demonstration of the desperation that is invading the parties integrated in the alliance (sic) by the evident plummeting of their candidate for governor”. This inverts the facts, although the state PRI blames the federal government for illegal phone taps and their dissemination on the MVS national program.
All possible PRI tricks were applied in Oaxaca, from the electoral misuse of social programs to simple violence. The practice of buying voter credentials goes back for decades. Recently Proceso, the national magazine, printed an article in which author Jose Gil Olmos revealed that elderly people receiving medications as well as food were told that their medicines come from the PRI, and if they don’t vote PRI their free medicines will no longer arrive. The state budget of almost 39 billion pesos pays for political expenses. Ulises Ruiz receives for personal costs 3,539 million pesos, as listed in the Oaxaca expense budget for 2010. This amount, which URO manages at his discretion, represents 10 percent of the state budget and is more than what is destined for indigenous development, jobs, help for vulnerable groups, urban and housing development, tourism, communication and transport. It helped URO’s candidate, Pérez Magaña, by renting airplanes and helicopters, buying votes for a thousand pesos, and renting up to 5,000 voter registration cards for election day.
The amount of resources available to the PRI-PVEM alliance was so substantial that Perez Magaña invited Governor Enrique Peña Nieto and Angélica Rivera to preside at two campaign activities on Saturday May 15; these were regarded by Eviel himself as the beginning of the Mexico State governor’s run for the candidacy for President of the Republic in 2012.
Among other frauds and tricks appeared paramilitary groups, kidnappings of supporters of Gabino Cué, and wounding of a reporter with gunshots. “He knows his political and personal future is at stake, therefore he put the machinery of electoral fraud into motion”, indicated doctor Juan Díaz Pimentel, ex-leader of the PRI in the state, being interviewed for Proceso. With programs directly supervised by URO, a minimum of 150,000 votes were bought from the poorest of the poor, accuses the former State Secretary of Health, who pointed out that this part of the electoral strategy was so important that URO himself directly supervised it. Starting in June, the program concentrated on senior citizens, of whom about 240,000 reside in the state. They were taught how to vote. The PRI obtained 150,000 secured votes. Other tricks involved giving out food and cement in return for voter credentials.
The narco-cartels and dirty tricks are national. 22,700 people have died in the country since President Felipe Calderon declared war on the cartels shortly after taking office in December 2006. Separating drug business from political business is now impossible. For an increasing number of officials in recent days, those threats became reality, with a major increase in the past few months related to intense conflicts among the cartels themselves. PRD candidate for governor of Quintana Roo, Gregorio Sánchez, was arrested for organized crime links and his campaign manager Gerardo Mora took his place as candidate. In Sinaloa, Rosario Alejandro Rivera Bodabilla, who functioned as a citizen advisor in the Fifth Electoral District, was killed. Front-running Tamaulipas state gubernatorial candidate Rodolfo Torre Cantu and a state legislator were gunned down on June 28 near Ciudad Victoria. Tamaulipas, a border state, is the scene of bloody violence as the Zeta and Gulf cartels fight for supremacy.
In Chihuahua, criminals shot and killed Guadalupe Mayor Jesus Manuel Lara Rodriguez on June 19 as his wife and child watched. He was a vocal opponent of the drug cartels. Samuel Logan, an expert on Latin American gangs and founding editor of the “Southern Pulse” intelligence report, said criminals are choosing which candidates they cannot tolerate. “It’s evidence of the reach that organized crime has in the political realm,” Logan said. This complicates the situation in states like Oaxaca which heretofore were supposedly free of cartels. But two narco banners appeared in Pinotepa Nacional on the Costa, and a member of UBISORT was assassinated in the Triqui town of Tres Cruces, between La Sabana and El Carrizal, on July 2.
In Oaxaca, on June 7 several young people burned a mobile unit belonging to the PRI candidate Perez Magaña. On Saturday, June 12 the former secretary of Transport, Aurora López, was kidnapped and sexually assaulted. She accused Governor Ulises Ruiz of being the intellectual author behind the attack, and the ex-director of Ministerial Police of Oaxaca, Lieutenant Manuel Moreno Rivas –whom she identified by his voice–of carrying out the kidnapping.
On another dirty front, the director of the New Alliance Party (PANAL), Cristóbal Carmona substituted his own choice of candidates for municipal presidents, disregarding his own national party leadership. According to the PANAL director, URO was involved because PANAL served to siphon off votes from CUPP. The State Electoral Institute accepted the substitutions although the discarded candidates were not consulted. PANAL threw into play its female candidate, Ima Peyreña, who on June 28 quit the race in favor of Gabino Cue. But the PANAL party declared for Eviel Pérez Magaña, the candidate whose unbelievable slogan was “Coalition for the Transformation of Oaxaca”.
Meanwhile, defamatory pamphlets associated Flavio Sosa, a vociferous member of the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca (APPO) and Gabino Cué with the violence of 2006. Sosa set fire to 34 buildings on one day, the posters alleged. Those announcements were paid for by Soledad Rojas Wallas, press director for URO. She demanded in an interview that the transport companies she also owns withdraw their support for Cué: “ ¨Stop helping the opposition, stop this helping someone who doesn’t provide you with food’, they told me (a bus driver reported), and I answered: ‘you have only provoked hunger in Oaxaca and screw your mother because I am going to keep on helping him’. They were attacking me and I fainted. Now I am directly accusing Lieutenant Manuel Moreno Rivas and Ulises Ruiz Ortiz, because it was an act of political intimidation, they don’t want the people to go out and vote.”
At the same time thousands of letters distributed by the PRI and the PVEM accused Gabino Cué, Flavio Sosa, Andrés Manuel López Obrador and the PRD senator Salomón Jara of being “a danger for Oaxaca.”
Violence in San José del Progreso, site of the silver mine the community does not want, occurred on June 21. The parish priest Martín Octavio García Ortiz, dragged from his vehicle, was beaten and hospitalized. He then was placed under arrest, charged by the PRI government with training guerrillas and inciting violence. The municipal president of Santo Domingo de Morelos, Nicolás García Ambrosio, and the municipal union representative Miguel Ángel Pérez García, were assassinated in an ambush in Santa María Tonameca, Section 22 reported. García Ambrosio was a primary school teacher. And these are just some examples of why Oaxacans expected fraud.
In Oaxaca, a richly indigenous state, only 152 municipal presidents are selected by political party. The remainder are chosen by usos y costumbres, the traditional open assembly. For CUPP, 102 candidates were nominated by the PRD. Thirty-seven candidates represented the PAN, including for municipal president (mayor) of Oaxaca, Luis Ugartechea Begué. Convergencia offered eleven, and two others were PT. The PRI nominated candidates for all 152 places.
For state representatives (there is no senate in Oaxaca) results are not yet known, but it is supposed that winners will mirror the more than 90% for CUPP candidates in the municipalities.
The weather was fine, and people flowed steadily into voting places, with neither long lines nor empty spaces. Profound popular support for Cue and against URO moved the win. Less than twenty hours after PRI candidate Perez Magaña issued his concession speech, on July 5 the zócalo of Oaxaca appeared sun-drenched, tranquil and relaxed.