Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Mexico election: poll workers strike back at AMLO

A couple of days ago, Andrés Manuel López Obrador presented a video which supposedly showed the director of a casilla (polling place) "stuffing" votes into a ballot box. Close examination revealed that the man was putting ballots into a box marked "Diputados", not the box marked "Presidente". As I have explained before, a Mexican voter is given a seperate ballot for each contest being conducted and, after marking all his ballots, the voter must then drop the correct ballot into its corresponding urna (ballot box). When the urnas are opened to be counted by the poll workers, they frequently find the wrong ballots in a box. They have to move incorrect ballots to the correct urna so that they can be counted.

In the video, the poll director is pictured doing that. AMLO and the PRD claimed that the video showed him "stuffing" the presidential ballot box. It did not. Now, the poll director has answered.

His name is Gilberto Castro Razo, he's a teacher in a rural school in Guanajuato state as well as an electrical engineering student. He said that he lives in a very small town where everyone knows everyone else. He first learned that his image was being bandied about the Mexican media when friends and acquaintances began to tease him about his "fraud" and calling him a "mapache" (crook) as AMLO had so accused him of being.

Castro Razo explained the problem of misdirected votes and the procedure for moving them to the correct ballot box. All of the various political parties are represented at the polls and all must sign a release for every action taken. It has to be unanimous or the vote count cannot take place.

Razo says that many of the voters in his area cannot read. Hence, ballots end up in the wrong box. They have to be moved to the correct box for counting. That's what he was doing when he was taped.

The ballots are printed with the candidate's name, followed by the logo of that candidate's political party inside a cuadrant. The ballots are in color and each politcal party has a distinctive color scheme as part of their respective logos. In fact, the parties are frequently referred to by their colors, rather than their names. The PRI is the "tricolor" (red, green and white - the colors of the Mexican flag), the PAN is the "Blanquiazul" (blue and white) and the PRD is the "sol Azteca" (Aztec sun - bright yellow).

The voter simply has to identify the political party for whom the vote is to be cast and mark an "X" through that party's logo. So, a voter does not have to know how to read in order to mark a ballot. However, the urnas are identified by signs; "Presidente", "Senador" etc.. The voter does have to know how to read, at least a bit, in order to get the ballot into the correct box.

Razo said,
"Primero lo tomé como de broma, pero no me gustó cuando empezaron a decirme en la calle que yo había cometido fraude. No hice nada malo; ahí estaban los representantes de los partidos que pusieron sus firmas y no hubo nada de irregular, porque ellos me pidieron que se pusieran las boletas equivocadas, porque mucha gente no sabe leer, para que se contaran en la casilla correspondiente".

Translation: First I took it as a joke, but I didn't like it when they began to tell me on the street that I had committed fraud. I did nothing wrong; there were representatives there from the parties that signed their names and nothing irregular took place. Because many people here cannot read, they asked me to put the ballots into the corresponding ballot box.
He also demanded that AMLO retract the accusation of fraud because,
"no soy mapache, soy un ciudadano a quien le encomendaron una tarea y la cumplí, pero no soy mapache".

Translation: I am not a crook. I'm a citizen and when they gave me a duty to perform I performed it but I am not a crook.

Now, as to the PRD (AMLO's party) representative who was present in the polling place when the alleged ballot stuffing took place:
Juliana Barrón Castro, rechazó que haya sido comprada. "No es cierto, nos están embarrando en algo que nosotros no hicimos. No me dieron nada, no recibí nada. Si Andrés Manuel perdió, que lo acepte, pero que no diga cosas que no hicimos".

Translation: Juliana Barrón Castro rejected the accusation that she had been bought. "It's not true. They are slinging mud at us for something that we didn't do. They didn't give me anything, I received nothing. If Andrés Manuel lost, accept it but don't say things that we didn't do."
I must note here that the video taken inside the polling place was illegal. You aren't supposed to do that. It would be seen, and obviously so, as voter and/or poll worker intimidation. Hence, the Guanajuato state PRD leader has disavowed any knowledge of the video.

Please visit the Pale Horse Galleries online store
for art, gifts and collectables -- all hand made
by Mexican indigenous artists.


No comments: