Anatomy of a scandal foretold - Page 3

How was the Mexican election stolen? Let us count the ways
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One columnist at the left national daily La Jornada discovered parallel lists of "razarados" on the IFE electronic page; one of the lists contained multiples of the other. While the columnist, Julio Hernandez, made a phone call to the IFE to question this phenomenon, the list containing the multiples vanished from his computer screen.

Similarly, radio reporter Carmen Aristegui was able to access the list of all registered voters through one of Felipe Calderon's web pages, and the list had been crossed with one containing the personal data of all recipients of government social development program benefits. Former social development secretary (SEDESO) Josefina Vazquez Mota, is Calderon's right hand woman and the PAN candidate's brother-in-law Diego Zavala, a data processing tycoon, designed programs for both the IFE and the SEDESO. Utilizing voter registration rolls and lists of beneficiaries of government programs is considered an electoral crime here.

AMLO's people went into July 2nd fearing a repeat of 1988 when the "system" purportedly "collapsed" on election night and did not come back up for ten days. When results were finally announced, Cuauhtemoc Cardenas has been despoiled of victory and the PRI's Carlos Salinas was declared the winner.

Lopez Obrador's fears were not unwarranted.

When on July 2nd AMLO's voters turned out in record-breaking numbers, Interior Secretary officials urged major media not to release exit poll results that heralded a Lopez Obrador victory. Ugalde himself took to national television to declare the preliminary vote count too close to call, and Mexicans went to bed without knowing whom their next president might be.

Preliminary results culled from the casillas (PREP) that ran erratically all night and all day Monday showed Calderon with a 200,000 to 400,000-vote lead, activating suspicions that cybernetic flimflam was in the works. When the PREP was finally shut down Monday night, the right winger enjoyed a commanding lead and Televisa and TV Azteca proclaimed him a virtual winner. U.S newspapers like the Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, and Chicago Tribune followed suit, and the White House was poised to celebrate a Calderon victory.

But there was one fly in the IFE's ointment: 42 million Mexicans had voted July 2nd, but only the votes of 39 million appeared in the PREP and Lopez Obrador demanded to know what had happened to the missing 3,000,000 voters. Then on a Tuesday morning news interview with Televisa, Luis Carlos Ugalde admitted that the missing votes had been abstracted from the PREP because of "inconsistencies". Indeed, 13,000 casillas -- 10% of the total -- had been removed from the preliminary count, apparently to create the illusion that Calderon had won the presidency.

Meanwhile all day Monday and into Tuesday, AMLO supporters throughout Mexico recorded thousands of instances of manipulation of the vote count. A ballot box in Mexico state registered 188 votes for Lopez Obrador but only 88 were recorded in the PREP. Another Mexico state ballot box was listed 20 times in the preliminary count. Whereas voters in states where the PAN rules the roost, cast more ballots for president than for senators and congressional representatives, voters in southern states where the PRD carried the day cast more ballots for congress than for the presidential candidates. Among the PRD states that purportedly followed this surreal pattern was Tabasco, the home state of two out of the three major party presidential candidates, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and the PRI's Roberto Madrazo.

On Wednesday morning, with the tension mounting to the breaking point and demonstrators already massing in the street, a final vote count began in Mexico's 300 electoral districts. Although the tabulation of the votes was programmed to finish Sunday, IFE officials pushed the recount ahead at breakneck speed.