Countdown to July 2, 2000

The Narco News Bulletin

1999: The Stealing of the Guerrero State Election

Part Three of Our Special Election Report

June 16, 2000

Guerrero, the southern Mexican state that includes the international tourist Meccas of Acapulco, Zihuatanejo and Taxco -- is in many ways a microcosm of Mexico itself.

Beyond its lucrative tourism industry, Guerrero is rich in natural resources, including gold and silver mines. Agriculturally fertile, especially in its selvatic tropical regions, Guerrero produces food, lumber, and, in some isolated mountain areas, marijuana and poppy. Straddling the Pacific Ocean, it is an increasingly important route for South American cocaine. The Narco News Bulletin addressed this on our first day of publication, as the first item in the publisher's Shots of Grace column.

Despite its great natural wealth, most of Guerrero's citizens live in dire poverty. More than 63-percent of its children suffer from malnutrition; 36-percent of its infants are malnourished in the catagory of "high risk." More than half of their parents are illiterate; 57-percent live in homes with an earthen floor, and 69-percent of all homes are either without potable water, electricity or adequate protection from the elements.

Guerrero has a large rural indigenous population and a long history of military-police repression (see the Rudolfo Montiel story). This has given birth to a history of guerrilla movements, the most famous of which occured in the 1970s and led by the legendary Lucio Cabañas and Genaro Vasquez. In recent years there has been occassional fighting between military-police officials and the Popular Revolutionary Army (EPR in its Spanish acronym) and the Popular Indigenous Revolutionary Army (ERPI). Two recent massacres by police and military against civilians -- Aguas Blancas and El Charco -- have scandalized the conscience of the nation.

And yet, in Guerrero, government repression is more focused on social activists and political leaders who use electoral and peaceful means. In the past decade, 30 leaders of the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) have been assassinated in Guerrero; many more have been kidnapped, tortured, disappeared and persecuted in every manner imaginable. There are at least 120 political prisoners in state penitentiaries. Some were framed on drug charges -- just like the June 2000 Drug War Heroes of the Month in Chiapas -- including one popular school teacher upon whom military officials at a roadblock planted marijuana (he spent a year in prison before attorneys and human rights groups were able to convince a judge that the contraband was imposed upon him by the very soldiers who detained him.)

Explosion into civil war has so far been detained by one factor only: The rise of Civil Society.

One of 20,000 Guerrero citizens who walked 11 days to Mexico City to protest Election Fraud
March 1999
photo D.R. 1999 Al Giordano

The traditional opposition bases of rural farmers and fishermen, many of them indigenous, are now joined in alliance by the middle classes of Acapulco and other population centers. Small business owners, schoolteachers, students, professionals, workers in the tourism industry, together with the rural social movements, seized control of the PRD party in recent years.

Whereas in some other regions, the PRD has itself been plagued by electoral irregularities and manipulations by former PRI members among others, the Guerrero party has been remarkable in its strict adherence to democratic principles. In 1999, the party members nominated through a state primary the federal Senator Félix Salgado Macedonio as their gubernatorial candidate.

Félix Salgado Macedonio
Elected by the People of Guerrero on February 7, 1999
March 7, 1999: Chilpancingo, Guerrero -- beginning the "Exodus for Democracy" to Mexico City
photo D.R. 1999 Al Giordano

Salgado, a folksy, outspoken afficcionado of motorcycles with a sense of humor and a national profile, brought his party to victory in 1999, only to see the election stolen.

This is a very serious claim to make. Here we will document exactly how the election was stolen in Guerrero 1999.

The official results themselves invite inquiry. They show a victory of less than one-percent for the PRI candidate René Juárez: 421,505 votes for the PRI candidate and 406,948 votes for the PRD candidate Salgado. (The smattering of votes for three other parties -- including the once-formidable National Action Party, the PAN, in Guerrero -- added up to slightly more than the difference of around one percent.)

The Salgado forces were able to, for the first time in the state's history, monitor all of the 3,867 ballot locations throughout Guerrero.

They documented the following acts of electoral fraud in 2,023 polling places; that is, more than half the ballot boxes in the state:

-- Stuffing of ballot boxes

-- Votes cast by deceased citizens

-- massive participation by federal military troops using other people's voter credentials

-- the disappearance of known opposition voters from the voting lists

Exodus for Democracy
March 9, 1999 -- Mezcala, Guerrero
photo D.R. 1999 Al Giordano

These blatant vote-stealing practices fall under the catagory of Traditional Fraud which the ruling party tends to invoke only when it has its back against the wall, as it did in Guerrero on February 7, 1999.

In 729 of these polling places, the fraud was serious enough that under Mexican federal and state election law it merited complete disqualification of the tally. But the laws that exist were not invoked or accepted by the state and federal election tribunals.

That they admit that the opposition candidate counted with 48-percent of the vote indicates that he likely received closer to 60-percent of the votes cast. Ten percent of the tally represents what was robbed between the voter and the official results. (Thus, it is not surprising that in this year's presidential election, PAN candidate Vicente Fox has used the 10-percent figure as the threshold he feels that the PRI must have this July 2nd to claim credible democratic victory.)

Also interesting is that TV Azteca -- no friend of the Mexican opposition movements, as established in other Narco News stories -- contracted with an exit poll company on this day in Guerrero: it found a 57-percent vote for Félix Salgado. The polling company, The Rosenbleuth Foundation was quietly fired by the TV station shortly after the election.

The state election tribunal has been appointed by the previous PRI governor, a ruthless political boss named Ruben Figueroa (son of the governor by the same name, who had to step down due to his responsibility for the Aguas Blancas and El Charco massacres, but who remains at the helm of the party apparatus). It completely disregarded the overwhelming evidence of electoral fraud.

And so 20,000 Guerrero citizens, led by Salgado, began an 11-day walk from the state capital of Chilpancingo to Mexico City, to appeal to the Federal Election Tribunal, known as the TRIFE.

The official campaign expenditures in the 1999 Guerrero election amounted to $9 million US dollars -- about $25 per vote (that is, a week's salary in Guerrero).

Beyond that official figure was exposed a massive campaign of secret expenditures using both government funds and mysterious sources of cash (see yesterday's story on narco-money in the Mexican elections).

The 20,000 marchers brought with them to Mexico city videotape of local PRI leaders purchasing voter credentials from impoverished citizens and distributing warehouses and truckloads full of consumer goods through the local political bosses in exchange for votes or credentials: food, clothing, bags of cement, aluminum roof materials -- known as dispensas among the poor.

In the days before the February 7th election, warehouses and truckloads of these materials were detected by local citizens in various regions, opened up by the force of masses of protestors, demonstrated to the press, and then distributed to the population in an open manner regardless of who they would support in the election. But these were merely examples of efforts that went awry in a more systematic official vote-buying effort that took place across the state.

The 20,000 marchers arrived in Mexico City on March 18th, and set up camp outside the TRIFE tribunal building.

Félix Salgado, after the 11-day, 300 kilometer walk to Mexico City, speaking at a demonstration on the gigantic Zócalo, "full like never before," said La Jornada.

March 18, 1999

photo D.R. 1999 Al Giordano

More than two dozen boxes of documents were delivered that proved the election had been stolen. They documented more than $4 million US dollars in state funds used to buy the vote. But the TRIFE refused to accept the documentation of illegal use of government funds -- including documents uncovered from within the Guerrero state government -- as evidence of fraud.

The TRIFE also disregarded photos and videos provided of the PRI's "ghost computer system" that had been linked by telephone wires to the state's own vote-counting system.

In the corridors of federal government power, PRI functionaries whispered that indeed they had stolen the vote -- this, according to La Jornada's politically-connected columnist Julio Hernández López -- but that the fraud was necessary for reasons of "national security."

Guerrero is not on the border of any other country. Nor are there any foreign islands off the coast. The "national security" question is that Salgado is one of the few national level politicians in Mexico who has not been linked to the narco. To the contrary, Félix Salgado, on the floor of the Senate, was the first to point the finger at Quintana Roo governor Mario Villanueva and expose that he was protecting the cocaine trafficking industry. Later, Villanueva fled as a fugitive and is now chased by Interpol as an international drug trafficker.

Guerrero's only geopolitical importance to Mexico is as a route for cocaine.

The US Ambassador to Mexico Jeffrey Davidow played his part in this sad tale of democracy stolen. As the post-electoral movement against the election fraud was gearing up, Davidow published a US State Department Traveler's Advisory warning trousists to avoid Acapulco and the state capital of Chilpancingo because of an undocumented "threat" of guerrilla violence.

The threat never materialized. The peaceful mobilization of Civil Society that Davidow sought to discredit and tarnish with this violent brush remained strictly nonviolent. More nefarious was that Davidow's revenge served as a message of punishment to tourist-dependent Acapulco -- as an urban area, ballot box tampering was not possible there due to so many eyewitnesses -- where voters delivered a 40,000-vote margin of victory to Salgado and the opposition.


April 1, 2000

The government plaza in Chilpancingo, Guerrero, was filled by citizens who saw their election stolen. The illigitimate governor, imposed by electoral fraud, had to hold his inauguration in a different place, surrounded by armed guards. The people of Guerrero continue their peaceful struggle for democracy.

photos D.R. 1999 Al Giordano

But what can the majority of Mexicans hope for on July 2nd, when only last year the massive election fraud of Guerrero was endorsed not only by Mexican officials, but also by the United States?

And thus, in the poorest Mexican state of Guerrero, the path was paved for The Stealing of Mexico on July 2, 2000.


Democracy Will Rise Again