Lopez Obrador takes case to NYT op-ed page

Lopez Obrador, the leftist presidential candidate who is leading militant protests in Mexico to challenge what he calls a fraudulent defeat in the July 2 elections, takes his case to the New York Times op-ed page Aug. 11:

Recounting Our Way to Democracy

by Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador

NOT since 1910, when another controversial election sparked a revolution, has Mexico been so fraught with political tension.

The largest demonstrations in our history are daily proof that millions of Mexicans want a full accounting of last month’s presidential election. My opponent, Felipe Calderón, currently holds a razor-thin lead of 243,000 votes out of 41 million cast, but Mexicans are still waiting for a president to be declared.

Unfortunately, the electoral tribunal responsible for ratifying the election results thwarted the wishes of many Mexicans and refused to approve a nationwide recount. Instead, their narrow ruling last Saturday allows for ballot boxes in only about 9 percent of polling places to be opened and reviewed.

This is simply insufficient for a national election where the margin was less than one percentage point — and where the tribunal itself acknowledged evidence of arithmetic mistakes and fraud, noting that there were errors at nearly 12,000 polling stations in 26 states.

It’s worth reviewing the history of this election. For months, voters were subjected to a campaign of fear. President Vicente Fox, who backed Mr. Calderón, told Mexicans to change the rider, but not the horse — a clear rebuke to the social policies to help the poor and disenfranchised that were at the heart of my campaign. Business groups spent millions of dollars in television and radio advertising that warned of an economic crisis were I to win.

It’s my contention that government programs were directed toward key states in the hope of garnering votes for Mr. Calderón. The United Nations Development Program went so far as to warn that such actions could improperly influence voters. Where support for my coalition was strong, applicants for government assistance were reportedly required to surrender their voter registration cards, thereby leaving them disenfranchised.

And then came the election. Final pre-election polls showed my coalition in the lead or tied with Mr. Calderón’s National Action Party. I believe that on election day there was direct manipulation of votes and tally sheets. Irregularities were apparent in tens of thousands of tally sheets. Without a crystal-clear recount, Mexico will have a president who lacks the moral authority to govern.

Public opinion backs this diagnosis. Polls show that at least a third of Mexican voters believe the election was fraudulent and nearly half support a full recount.

And yet the electoral tribunal has ordered an inexplicably restrictive recount. This defies comprehension, for if tally sheet alterations were widespread, the outcome could change with a handful of votes per station.

Our tribunals — unlike those in the United States — have been traditionally subordinated to political power. Mexico has a history of corrupt elections where the will of the people has been subverted by the wealthy and powerful. Grievances have now accumulated in the national consciousness, and this time we are not walking away from the problem. The citizens gathered with me in peaceful protest in the Zócalo, the capital’s grand central plaza, speak loudly and clearly: Enough is enough.

In the spirit of Gandhi and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., we seek to make our voices heard. We lack millions for advertising to make our case. We can only communicate our demand to count all the votes by peaceful protest.

After all, our aim is to strengthen, not damage, Mexico’s institutions, to force them to adopt greater transparency. Mexico’s credibility in the world will only increase if we clarify the results of this election.

We need the goodwill and support of those in the international community with a personal, philosophical or commercial interest in Mexico to encourage it to do the right thing and allow a full recount that will show, once and for all, that democracy is alive and well in this republic.

Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the mayor of Mexico City from 2001 to 2005, was a candidate for president in 2006, representing a coalition led by his Party of the Democratic Revolution. This article was translated from the Spanish by Rogelio Ramírez de la O.

Just days earlier, on Aug. 7, the Times had noted:

On Sunday, Lopez Obrador, the former Mexico City mayor, called on his supporters to press the seven-member tribunal to “rectify their decision.”

“I am not a vulgar opportunist,” he told the crowd, “nor am I obsessed with power, but we cannot stand by with crossed arms in front of this attack on the citizens.”

Lopez Obrador has also taken pains to discredit the news media, painting reporters as part of the conspiracy against him. One reporter, Heliodoro Cardenas of the newspaper Milenio, was roughed up by bodyguards when he tried to ask the candidate a question on Sunday. Lopez Obrador saw the incident but did not acknowledge or stop it.

See our last posts on Mexico and the electoral crisis.

  1. Mexican post-electoral crisis
    The partial recount has uncovered many irregularities. The worst being that in a lot of polling stations there are more votes than voters registered which suggests “unrnas embarazadas”, a fraudulent practic in Mexico that was tought to be forever gone. A lot of votes are missing and “experts” point out that thousands of Mexicans took ballots as “souvenirs”. An idiotic suggestion.

    Only a full recount would give any credibility to this election plagued with irregularities. Yet mainstream media has launched a campaign to help conservative cadidate oppose a recount. They have been hiding and manipulating information thus undermining the possibilities for Mexican democracy to stay afloat.

    Mexicans do need international solidarity to back the recount because we are fighting against the odds in Mexico, where money can monopolise television and newspapers to manipulate public opinion into backing their proposal, even at the expense of democracy.

    1. Bibiana,In typical prd

      In typical prd fashion, you make allegations without presenting any evidence or proof of your statements.

      About the supposed ballot stuffing, this issue (an election day act which was wrongful and purposely filmed by your cronies), has already been duly clarified by the authorities. And to boot, the man in charge of that voting station, a man from your party I believe, has already stated that he was only placing some ballots that were mistakenly inserted in the wrong box by the voters themselves.

      As to the voters who allegedly took ballots as “souvenirs�?, you only need ask your honorable legislator, Horacio Duarte, where he got those ballots he brandished on public tv. Were those ballots forged documents?, or were these actually taken as “souvenirs�?, in order to later expose them as deceitful “proof�? of what you intend to portray as fraud?

      My message to you and your party is: We are SICK and TIRED of your so-called and purportedly “peaceful civil resistance” activities. With all due repect (sound familiar?), please free our streets, and let our Independence day festivities take place undisturbed; IT IS NOT your celebration (solely the prd’s), it is OUR celebration as a country. Do not take this occasion hostage, like you have done with our streets. What message are you intending to convey to other countries?

      To the American society as a whole I ask: How would you feel if a disgruntled politician summoned his followers to take over 5th Ave., Times Square or Wall Street in New York City? Or Main Street in your hometown?

      Bibiana, you are making serious allegations and are questioning the honorability of Mexicans as a whole. But that is neither innovative nor a surprise; your candidate often employs doublespeak, false accusations and downright lies. When asked if he would run for president, Mr. Lopez would invariably reply (quite deceitfully I might add): “Leave me for dead.�? (“dénme por muerto�?). And who could forget his catchy slogan: “honestidad valiente�? (valorous honesty).

      Finally, is his real name Andres Manuel or Manuel Andres?



      1. Brief response
        “To the American society as a whole I ask: How would you feel if a disgruntled politician summoned his followers to take over 5th Ave., Times Square or Wall Street in New York City? Or Main Street in your hometown?”

        I believe another reader just answered that question.

  2. Zapatistas on recount
    From El Financiero, Aug 8 via Chiapas95 (our translation):

    Marcos supports recount, but not AMLO

    Subcomandante Marcos, now known as Delegate Zero, came out this Tuesday in favor of a vote-by-vote recount, as a measure to correct what he considers an electoral fraude engineered by the federal government.

    NOnetheless, Marcos made clear that his position does not imply support for the candidate of the coalition For the Good of All [Por el Bien de Todos], Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

    Anselmo Robles, representative of The Other Campaign, who spoke in the name of Delegate Zero, indicated that the electoral fraud and the case of Atenco were among the themes discussed with Marcos during his visit in Queretaro.

    Identified by the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) since 1998 as one of the political prisoners whose liberty is a prerequsite for a resumption of dialogue with the government of Vicente Fox, Robles explained that Marcos did not define what action should be taken in these cases.

  3. Protests continue
    From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Aug. 13:

    Thousands of supporters of center-left presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador continued to camp out in the center of Mexico City to demand a recount of the July 2 vote, which Lopez Obrador officially lost by 0.58%. After two weeks of snarling traffic in the city, on Aug. 8 the protesters occupied tollbooths on the accesses to highways to Pachuca and Queretaro to the north, Cuernavaca to the south, and Puebla to the east; for several hours they let motorists pass through without paying. (El Diario-La Prensa, Aug. 9 from EFE) On Aug. 11 Lopez Obrador supporters held demonstrations at federal buildings in the states of Tamaulipas, Veracruz and Guerrero. Some 300 protesters, mostly women banging on pans with spoons, sat in at the Chamber of Commerce and the Employers Association of the Mexican Republic in Nuevo Leon state. While US anti-riot agents watched, a group of protesters including campesinos on horseback blocked the international bridge linking Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, and El Paso, Texas. (LJ, Aug. 12)