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Six Years of Fraud p RESIDENT CARLOS SALINAS de Gortari took office under the specter of fraud, having officially won the presidency by a bare 0.4 percent majority three days after computers tabulating the votes myteriously shut down with Cuauhtemoc Cardenas in the lead. Under pressure, Salinas pledged a more open system. Instead, the strength of opposition vigilance, political whims of the central government and whether the contender came from the conservative or socialist sphere determined whether elections after 1989 were free from fraud. From interviews with oppositional party members and unaffiliated electoral observers, as well as newspaper accounts and academic studies, here is a sampling of elections since 1988. Baja California, 1989: Ernesto Ruffo of the conservative National sition Governor in Mexico since 1946 after trouncing his opponent from the Institutional 163,529. Colegio de Mexico analyst Sylvia Gomez Tagle credits the win to a number of factors: the rupture of tradition government control mechanisms due to the state’s urban character; Baja California’s history of supporting oppositional candidates \(Cardenas mous” technical ability to watch over the government’s electoral apparatus. Ruffo claimed victory the day after the election, before the government had a chance to announce the official count, by computing 989 of 1,168 polling places and backing up his figures with polling place documentation. Former PRI party secretary Luis Donaldo Colosio, now head of the government’s politically driven poverty alleviation program and reputed front-runner for the PRI presidential nomination, quickly recognized the victory. Colosio’ s endorsement tied the hands of the local PRI-controlled electoral machinery. Guerrero, December 1989: Guerrero, a rural southwestern state with a long history of political violence, is one of several states the opposition claims the PRI stole in 1988. Denunciations from several parties, but principally the left-of-center included claims of stolen ballot boxes, burned ballots and PRI mayors who tallied official results privately in their offices. The complaints continued after a state election 18 months later in which the PRI won positions in 55 cities and the PRD won in 12. After the 1991 election, a wave of violence shook Guerrero, including the PRD occupation of town halls, installation of 20 “parallel” PRD city administrations and a battle between PRD activists and police officers outside the Acapulco International Airport. The government sent in the army to dislodge the PRD activists. When the smoke cleared, the opposition had taken the heaviest hits. ,Of 22 deaths recorded in local media, 14 of the dead were PRD members, five were PRI members and three were members of the police forces. Guanajuato, August 1991: Elections in the central state of Guanajuato were typical of the growing sophistication of fraud in Mexico, engineered by computer specialists within the Interior Secretary, according to the opposition. The elections also signaled the increasing resourcefulness of political parties and electoral observers in the fight against fraud. All three major parties fielded forceful candidates and three new citizens’ groups participated as observers. The new Federal Electoral Institute, a government response to allegations of fraud and post-electoral violence, began to function in January 1991. Despite the changes, the election was far from clean. One telling fact: More than 100 of the 2,040 polling places reported a higher number of votes than citizens living in the districts. Ballot stuffing and repeat voting explained the difference, according to the opposition. Manipulation of the voter rolls by the government’ s computer specialists was also alleged. Had the questionable votes been cancelled, the PAN’s Vicente Fox would have won the gubernatorial race. Instead, according to the official figures, the PRI won with 51.17 percent of the vote. The new IFE, headed by Salinas’ Interior Secretary, turned a deaf ear to proofs of fraud. Amid mounting protest, Salinas himself intervened. The PRI’ s new governor resigned and the PRIcontrolled local congress under Salinas’ direction appointed the former PAN mayor of Leon as interim governor. Fox, a firebrand critic of Salinas to this day, was left in the cold as were those who voted for him. Michoacan, July 1992 A growing cadre of independent Mexican electoral observers watched as official IFE figures gave the governor’s election in the PRD stronghold to PRI candidate Eduardo Villasefiior. The Convergence of Civil Organizations in Favor of Democracy, a coalition of 150 human rights groups and university professors, placed more than 500 observers in polling places. Their research, including a month-long survey of state media and background study of 464 polling station supervisors, sought to document a number of the government’s most common fraudulent tactics. Among their findings: a substantial decrease in the number of voters registered in opposition strongholds as compared to the 1988 elections. The IFE was responsible for compiling the voter rolls; the predominance of PRI-affiliated polling station supervisors, the state employees charged with safeguarding the integrity of the elections. In 292 of the 464 stations surveyed, employees had strong ties to the official party. In contrast, 80 functionaries were PRD supporters, six were PAN supporters and only 86 had no link to any political party; a strong bias in favor of the PRI in three surveyed newspapers. During the monthlong study period, the newspapers ran 38 front-page stories on the PRI candidate and 157 pictures of PRI functions. Only three stories on the PRD candidate and 26 photos of PRD activities appeared. hundreds of testimonials about the mingling of state and party funding, including the use of Solidarity money and goods to promote the PRI and the “extremely high cost” of hiring 72,000 “promoters” for up to three months to guarantee 10 votes each for the party. Solidarity is the government’s antipoverty/public works program. myriad irregularities. Electoral or party authorities withheld voting credentials from opposition supporters, cancelled PRD votes without justification, stole ballot boxes in some cases and stuffed them in others, threatened opposition supporters with loss of government service and looked on as citizens voted. After being sworn in, Villasetlior took a year’s leave of absence to prevent a wave of post-electoral violence. His leave is up this month. Meanwhile, the head of the IFE, Emilio Chauffet, resigned to run for governor in the state of Mexico in July 1993. He won, in another election characterized by claims of fraud. SALLY HUGHES Subscribe to The Texas Observer. For information call 512/477-0746 or write: The Texas Observer, 307 W. 7th St., Austin, TX 78701 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 15