Friday, September 01, 2006

Is the Mexican Election all about oil?

As the President stepped up to the podium, members of Congress marched on the podium chanting "ballot by ballot", and calling the President a "traitor to democracy."

Yes, this really happened. No, it didn't happen in the United States, although it should have. This, my friends, is how Democracy looks in Mexico.

Mexican President Vicente Fox was unable to give his State of the Union address today, the first time in 180 years that the annual speech was not delivered.

Two months after the Mexican election of July 2, we still don't know for sure whom the Mexicans elected. After the initial count of the votes, the conservative candidate, Felipe Calderon, of the National Action Party (PAN), was ahead by a margin of less than 1% of the votes of his closest rival, Manuel Lopez Obrador.

Obrador, 52, was the popular mayor of Mexico City from 2000 to 2005. According to this Washington Post piece, he left office with an unheard of 80% approval rating. As the WP's Heather Murphy wrote,
Obrador has defined himself as an antidote to the corrupt, wealthy leaders of the past, a crusader poised to "make history" for the benefit of the underdogs. He has vowed to, for example, to force Mexican monopolies to hire on the basis of merit rather than connections. His campaign slogan, "For the Good of Everyone, the Poor First," is supported in his policy proposals; he is the favorite of Mexico's vast underclass.
I talked to some Mexican Americans recently, and they compared Obrador to President Kennedy in terms of his popularity there. He stood up for the underdog. He got things done. Calderon got things done too, but for a different, richer, and smaller segment of society.

Greg Palast sounded the alarm early in this case:
The precinct-by-precinct returns were quite otherworldly. I used to teach statistics and what I saw in Mexico would have stumped my brightest students.

Here’s the conundrum: The nation’s tens of thousands of polling stations report to the capital in random order after the polls close. Therefore, statistically, you’d expect the results to remain roughly unchanged as vote totals come in. As expected, AMLO [Obrador] was ahead of the right-wing candidate Calderon all night by an unchanging margin — until after midnight. Suddenly, precincts began reporting wins for Calderon of five to one, the ten to one, then as polling nearly ended, of one-hundred to one.
So it is not surprising that hundreds of thousands of Mexicans took to the streets of Mexico City, literally shutting the city down, to protest what they feel was a stolen election. Shades of 2000, and 2004, in the U.S.

I haven't been following this story too closely. I'm sort of on tragedy overload right now and trying to stay focused where I feel I can do the most good. (I'm very active with electronic voting issues in Los Angeles.) But it outrages me when people steal. And when rich people steal from the poor, that outrageous me perhaps the most. And that's exactly what happens when rich people steal the vote from the poor. They gobble up the goods of society for themselves, leaving those most in need to become even more miserable.

I knew that a federal court in Mexico denied Obrador's claims of fraud and said the count remains unchanged, and Calderon is the winner. I knew that the mainstream media around the world had pretty much declared Calderon the winner and told Obrador to go home.

But when I read today that Calderon was the former energy secretary under the current President, Vincente Fox, I had a horrible, and horribly familiar, feeling.

Is this all about oil? This little piece of info in a Bloomberg report makes me think so:
On Aug. 28, a federal electoral court rejected Lopez Obrador's claims of irregularities in the elections, putting Calderon a step closer to taking office. Calderon, former energy minister under Fox, vowed to allow private investment in the energy industry and continue promoting free-trade policies.

Mexico's oil is controlled by a state-owned monopoly. So it makes sense that the candidate who vowed to open up oil markets to private profiteering would get support from all kinds of covert operators, who know where there bread is buttered. It would explain a scene like this, reported at NarcoNews:

  • In 3,074 precincts (29 percent of those recounted), 45,890 illegal votes, above the number of voters who cast ballots in each polling place, were found stuffed inside the ballot boxes (an average of 15 for each of these precincts, primarily in strongholds of the National Action Party, known as the PAN, of President Vicente Fox and his candidate, Felipe Calderón).
  • In 4,368 precincts (41 percent of those recounted), 80,392 ballots of citizens who did vote are missing (an average of 18 votes in each of these precincts).
  • Together, these 7,442 precincts contain about 70 percent of the ballots recounted. The total amount of ballots either stolen or forged adds up to 126,282 votes altered.
  • If the recount results of these 10,679 precincts (8.2 percent of the nation’s 130,000 polling places) are projected nationwide, it would mean that more than 1.5 million votes were either stolen or stuffed in an election that the first official count claimed was won by Calderon by only 243,000 votes

But Mexico doesn't have enough oil to steal, does it? Maybe. Maybe not. According to this Washington Post article today,

Officials at Mexico's state-owned oil monopoly said Monday that the company has detected massive new oil deposits in the Gulf of Mexico that could potentially double the country's reserves, but industry analysts cautioned that the company's findings are still unproven.

Officials at Petroleos Mexicanos, or Pemex, said that a three-year, deep-water exploration project found areas that could boost the country's total reserves to 102 billion barrels. Luis Ramirez, the company's head of exploration and production, told El Universal newspaper the find could "put us on a par with reserves levels of the big players like Iraq, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait or Iran."

Industry analysts cautioned that the figures were based on scientific estimates, not actual drilling. They said the findings, if proven, would be encouraging news in a country that produces about 3.3 million barrels of oil per day and is among the top three suppliers to the United States.

Now, by the time stories of a massive new oil find hits the papers, that knowledge was already known in certain circles much, much earlier. So it makes sense that those with secret knowledge of this windfall would work really hard to ensure the man who promised to open oil fields to privatization was elected president. It makes sense that the boxes would be stuffed to ensure the desired outcome. And most of all, it makes PERFECT sense that the media, which serves at the pleasure of the oil-based establishment, would report the story the oil barons want the world to see.

What doesn't make sense is how little people in the US care about what's happening south of our borders. What happens to one of us on this little spinning ball in space happens to all of us. Stolen elections should not be ignored, washed away, overlooked, no matter where they happen, and no matter who does the stealing. This is a tragedy, and I, for one, stand with those who cry for a genuine audit of the vote.

Ballot by ballot.



Blogger Real History Lisa said...

Just found a video snippet here.

7:32 PM  
Blogger Real History Lisa said...

Yes - if Obrador and Chavez joined forces against the USA, that would be bad news for the neocons and our oil needs, indeed. But of course, if we were more accommodating towards them, we wouldn't be in this position. No one wants to help out the bully. And the USA has been a big bully on the planet, no more so than under the current (un)leadership.

I hope we can resurrect our image in the world at some point. Thanks, Walkshills, for your comments.

8:59 PM  

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