Anatomy of a scandal foretold

How was the Mexican election stolen? Let us count the ways
|
()

MEXICO CITY (July 7th) -- Mexican elections are stolen before, during, and after Election Day. Just look at what happened in the days leading up to the tightest presidential election in the nation's history this past July 2nd.

By law, the parties and their candidates close down their campaigns three days before Election Day. On Wednesday night June 28th, as the legal limit hove into sight, a team of crack investigators from the Attorney General's organized crime unit descended on the maximum security lock-up at La Palma in Mexico state where former Mexico City Finance Secretary Guillermo Ponce awaits trial on charges of misuse of public funds “ much of which he appears to have left on Las Vegas crap tables.

During his nearly six years in office, outgoing president Vicente Fox has often used his attorney general's office against leftist front-runner Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador to counter his growing popularity, including a failed effort to bar the former Mexico City mayor from the ballot and even imprison him.

Now, in a desperate last-minute electoral ploy by Fox's right-wing National Action or PAN party to boost the fortunes of its lagging candidate Felipe Calderon, the agents tried to pressure Ponce into testifying that AMLO and his PRD party had used city revenues to finance his presidential campaign but Ponce proved a stand-up guy and ultimately rebuffed the government men.

The imprisoned finance secretary's refusal to talk greatly disappointed both Televisa and TV Azteca, Mexico's two-headed television monopoly that has waged an unrelenting dirty war against Lopez Obrador for months and even years. Indeed, TV crews were stationed out in the La Palma parking lot to record Ponce's thwarted confession for primetime news and both networks had reserved time blocks on their evening broadcasting, forcing the anchors to scramble to fill in the gap.

That was Wednesday night. On Thursday June 29th, Lopez Obrador's people awoke to discover that the candidate's electronic page had been hacked and a phony message purportedly signed by AMLO posted there calling upon his supporters to hit the streets "if the results do not favor us." Although officials of Lopez Obrador's party, the PRD, immediately proved the letter to be a hoax, the pro-Calderon media broadcast the story for hours as if it were the gospel truth, eventually forcing the PRD and its allies to reaffirm that AMLO would abide by results released by the Federal Electoral Institute (IFE), the nation's maximum electoral authority, even if the IFE's numbers did not favor the candidate.

The PRD pledge was a reiteration of a "pact of civility" that Televisa had browbeat PRD president Lionel Cota into signing in early June. "Hackergate," as the scandal quickly became known, was designed to prevent Lopez Obrador's supporters from protesting the fraud that the electoral authorities were already preparing.

That was Thursday. On Friday, June 30th, after more than five years of false starts, Fox's special prosecutor for political crimes placed former president Luis Echeverria under house arrest for his role in student massacres in 1968 and 1971. Not only was the long overdue arrest portrayed by big media as a feather in Fox's -- and therefore, Calderon's – cap, but it also put the much-hated Echeverria, a pseudo-leftist with whom Calderon has often compared Lopez Obrador, back on the front pages. Since Echeverria is an emeritus member of the PRI, the bust killed two birds with one very opportunist stone.

That was Friday. On Saturday June 1st, two PRD poll watchers in conflictive Guerrero state were gunned down by unknowns, invoking the memory of hundreds of party supporters who were slaughtered in political violence after the 1988 presidential election was stolen from party founder Cuauhtemoc Cardenas, up until now Mexico's most conspicuous electoral fraud.

That was Saturday.