Mexico’s Election: A Personal Commentary from Oaxaca

When we lose an election, and feel angry with or without cause, it’s natural to shout “Fraud!” However, the count of votes cast on July 1,  2012 provoked a scream of rage which didn’t indicate baseless anger, or  that no fraud actually occurred. Enrique Peña Nieto the PRI presidential victor, feels safe saying he will go along with a recount. The fraud won’t show up on the paper ballots.

In Mexico, how much fraud decides an election? President Felipe Calderon never permitted a true examination of his 2006 electoral results, and that refusal supported a public perception of fraud, not diminished it. Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, his left-leaning opponent, never stopped saying Calderon is illegitimate. Six years later we hopefully embarked on the same scenario, this time with Peña Nieto.

Lopez Obrador wants every vote recounted, which probably won’t occur. But even if it did, if it’s true as alleged that the PRI bought votes, that won’t show on ballots being recounted. Although people were handed credit cards to buy food at the Soriana chain, and they agreed to vote (whether by handing over their credentials or actually marking their ballots) for the PRI, that won’t be visible on the re-counted ballots. What is more meaningfully indicative of the fraud is thousands of people racing to Soriana to use these store credit cards before the Soriana-PRI coalition could renege. According to reports, some of the PRI promises sadly were false, they told voters the cards were good for 1,000 to 1,200 pesos, but in reality some cards bought only 100 pesos worth of foods. According to a Proceso report, Soriana’s honcho is best buddies with Peña Nieto.

Another obvious fraud was the failure to send ballots to polling places in many states, including Oaxaca,  where people supposedly could vote if they were not in their home district. In the Oaxaca zócalo a scuffle broke out as citizens charged at the federal vote official for failure to bring ballots, but opening cast ballots won’t show any fraud, just fewer votes. Where the usual food and cement were handed out in exchange for credentials, who did the actual voting won’t show on the ballots either, unless a handwriting expert is brought in. People often hand over their credentials or mark ballots as ordered, before receiving their benies.

In Oaxaca, pre-marked ballots were twice discovered, and that indeed constituted attempted fraud because it occurred before July 1.

This is small stuff, anyway. The big buy, exposed by the Guardian newspaper in England, was a campaign-media coalition ongoing since 2005 to keep pumping pro-Peña Nieto spots onto television, along with setting him up to marry a telenovela actress. The publicity was fraudulent in having been selective, bought and paid for, but the ballots it produced are not “false”, they don’t constitute a fraud, only evidence of gullible voters.

Holding an election does not make a democracy. Indeed, if one defines democracy as rule from below, no elections outside some few autonomous indigenous communities fall into the category of democracy: where people know personally their authorities and can confront them face to face at any time. The people bestow legitimacy only on those they can confront and hold to account. Legal elections in Mexico continue since the 1911 revolution, but never has there been legitimacy. From 1911 to 1922 Mexican presidents sped through the scene like roller derby winners, spilling on the track. Thereafter, how nice to have stability with the Institutionalized Revolutionary Party, for eighty years! Yesterday the PRI was referred to as the dinosaurs, now they have made a comeback after being ousted in 2000 by the PAN. Many claim that a gentlemen’s agreement permitted a presidential alternation to keep the public deceived and quiet. But power in Mexico includes a license to steal, a strong motive for never relinquishing it. Candidates have always been selected behind the scenes by the few whose goals are not my goals, and the fights have been increasingly dirty. They are now, it is said, under the control of drug cartels in the besieged northern states, and in Guerrero in the south as well.

Campaigns organize to win, not to educate or improve. Present-day parties assume the public, ignorant and/or ingenuous, receives their input from television, and no promises made need be fulfilled. But due to the calamitous cartel growth everyone knows the PAN has overseen a disaster, a weak president presiding over more than 60,000 civilian deaths. In the 2012 election the PAN dropped to a low third place.

On the streets and in the market, many Oaxacans became less gullible after the 2006 rebellion and education. We hear in more detail the who and how of being defrauded. Today my passing yogurt vendor stopped his car on the street to speak out the window, and his comment on the election was contained in a look of disgust and several shakes of his head, a common greeting in these past days. Oaxaca voted for the left, for  Lopez Obrador, and ten of our twelve senators and representatives also will be from parties on the left. PRI fraud in Oaxaca is too old, too well known, too bitter.

TV monopolies produce false news, now well documented As we know, youngsters organize first via the internet.  #YoSoy132 are out in the streets right now, with the inevitable provocateurs alongside breaking windows and causing headlines: beware a rampage of thugs! undoubtedly wearing body piercings and tattoos; the PRI-media promote their false image ever since students confronted Peña Nieto at his campaign stop at University Iberoamerica, and booed him off the campus. #YoSoy132 began as a confrontation against the kind of corrupt media which fostered Peña Nieto’s presidency, and immediately snowballed, like other global youth movements.

Mexico is a very young country, 60% of the population is under thirty. Look out for assassinations by cartels, governments and corporate-owned military and police; repression is already underway.  Nevertheless, as in other nations where youth occupies the streets, thrills and surprises result.