As the day progressed, PAN and PRI electoral officials, charging Lopez Obrador's people with trying to obstruct the process, repeatedly rejected PRD demands to open the ballot boxes and recount the votes inside one by one in instances where Lopez Obrador's tally sheets did not coincide with numbers in the PREP or were different from the sheets attached to the ballot box. When a recount was allowed such as in one Veracruz district, Lopez Obrador sometimes recouped as many as a thousand votes.
Surprisingly, by early afternoon, AMLO had accumulated a 2.6% lead over Calderon -- and his supporters were dancing in the streets of Mexico City. And then, inexplicably, for the next 24 hours, his numbers went into the tank, never to rise again -- at the same time that the right-winger's started to increase incrementally. By late evening, AMLO was reduced to single digit advantage and a little after 4 AM Thursday morning, Calderon inched ahead. It had taken 12 hours to count the last 10% of the votes and still there were districts that had not reported.
When Lopez Obrador addressed the press at 8:30, he condemned "the spectacle of the dance of numbers" and announced that the PRD and its political allies would impugn the election -- he had proof of anomalies in 40,000 polling places (a third of the total) and would present them to the "TRIFE", the supreme electoral tribunal with powers to annul whole districts and states, within the 72 hours dictated by the law.
Then, in his typically hesitating, Peter Falk-like way of saying things, AMLO called for the second election -- the one that takes place in the street -- beginning at 5 PM Saturday in the great Zocalo plaza at the political heart of this bruised nation.
Although Lopez Obrador's words were perhaps the culminating moment of this long strange journey, Mexico's two-headed TV monster chose to ignore them - Televisa was otherwise occupied with "entertainment" news, and soon after the screens filled up with game shows and telenovelas (soap operas.) Although it had not yet concluded, the telenovela of the vote count disappeared into the ether of morning television.
This chronicle of a fraud foretold is an excerpt from John Ross's forthcoming "Making Another World Possible:Zapatista Chronicles 2000-2006" to be published this October by Nation Books.