July 11, 2006

It Ain't Over Till You Count the Friggin' Votes

From the Department of "If His Lips Are Moving, Etc.," at yesterday's White House Press Briefing:
Q The call the President made to Calderon to congratulate him, that means that the U.S. government already recognized him as the President-elect of Mexico? Can you explain what --

MR. SNOW: Well, I believe the electoral commission had, in fact, declared him President. And according to the laws of Mexico, at this point, he is President. Should there be a recount, should there be another adjustment, should there be a change, then the President will acknowledge that, as well -- Mexico, obviously having the ability to decide who, as a result of transparent elections, is the President of the country.
I know it shatters your world to think the White House and its representatives might be mistaken about anything at all, but...

Wrong, Tony!

So, so wrong:
(Mexico City) Last week the Electoral Commission, IFE, announced the results of a country-wide count of tally sheets - sheets that are attached to each ballot box - they found that Felipe Calderon (PAN) was ahead of Lopez Obrador (PRD) by around 0.5%. To Calderon, there is no question that he is the winner. But according to Lopez Obrador, he has won more votes.


Despite what both Calderon and Lopez Obrador tell their supporters and what you read in press reports, the next President has yet to be officially declared. IFE is not the body responsible for officially announcing the next President. Rather, it is TRIFE (Electoral Tribunal) that will make an official announcement by early September, after addressing complaints filed by each party. The parties have four days to file their objections following the results of the tally sheet count — which was concluded last Thursday.

Last night, the PRD, Lopez Obrador’s party, delivered their official complaint to the tribunal.

TRIFE, a supposedly non-partisan, independent body, has the responsibility to examine irregularities brought forth to them. TRIFE, will therefore, have to consider facts such as:

- Why hundreds of thousands of ballots have yet to be included in any count;

- Why ballots have been found, literally, in the trash;

- Why there was a massive amount of "drop-off", i.e. where people showed up to vote but did not cast a vote for president;

- Why, on Election Day, Casilla workers in places like Queretaro and Salamanca were caught on video, stuffing ballot boxes and changing tally sheets. ...
The story has a lot more.

And then read this piece by Greg Palast:
There's something rotten in Mexico. And it smells like Florida. The ruling party, the Washington-friendly National Action Party (Pan), proclaimed yesterday their victory in the presidential race, albeit tortilla thin, was Mexico's first "clean" election. But that requires we close our eyes to some very dodgy doings in the vote count that are far too reminiscent of the games played in Florida in 2000 by the Bush family. And indeed, evidence suggests that Team Bush had a hand in what may be another presidential election heist.

Just before the 2000 balloting in Florida, I reported in the Guardian that its governor, Jeb Bush, had ordered the removal of tens of thousands of black citizens from the state's voter rolls. He called them "felons", but our investigation discovered their only crime was Voting While Black. And that little scrub of the voter rolls gave the White House to his brother George.

Jeb's winning scrub list was the creation of a private firm, ChoicePoint of Alpharetta, Georgia. Now, it seems, ChoicePoint is back in the voter list business - in Mexico - at the direction of the Bush government. Months ago, I got my hands on a copy of a memo from the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, marked "secret", regarding a contract for "intelligence collection of foreign counter-terrorism investigations".

Given that the memo was dated September 17 2001, a week after the attack on the World Trade Centre, hunting for terrorists seemed like a heck of a good idea. But oddly, while all 19 hijackers came from Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf, the contract was for obtaining the voter files of Venezuela, Brazil ... and Mexico.

What those Latin American countries have in common, besides a lack of terrorists, is either a left-leaning president or a left candidate for president ahead in the opinion polls, leaders of the floodtide of Bush-hostile Latin leaders. It seems that the Bush government feared the leftist surge was up against the US's southern border.

As we found in Florida in 2000, my investigations team on the ground in Mexico City this week found voters in poor neighbourhoods, the left's turf, complaining that their names were "disappeared" from the voter rolls. ChoicePoint can't know what use the Bush crew makes of its lists. But erased registrations require us to ask, before this vote is certified, was there a purge as there was in Florida?


There's more that the Mexico vote has in common with Florida besides the heat. The ruling party's hand-picked electoral commission counted a mere 402,000 votes more for their candidate, Felipe Calderón, over challenger Andrés Manuel López Obrador. That's noteworthy in light of the surprise showing of candidate Señor Blank-o (the 827,000 ballots supposedly left "blank").

We've seen Mr Blank-o do well before - in Florida in 2000 when Florida's secretary of state (who was also co-chair of the Bush campaign) announced that 179,000 ballots showed no vote for the president. The machines couldn't read these ballots with "hanging chads" and other technical problems. Humans can read these ballots with ease, but the hand-count was blocked by Bush's conflicted official.

And so it is in Mexico. The Calderón "victory" is based on a gross addition of tabulation sheets. His party, the Pan, and its election officials are refusing López Obrador's call for a hand recount of each ballot which would be sure to fill in those blanks.
So lots of voting irregularities, lots of "blank" ballots, and ChoicePoint, too. And there's even an oil connection. I heard Palast talking about this on the Randi Rhodes Show this afternoon. Here's one news story that gives the sense of what's at stake here:
Conservative ruling party candidate Felipe Calderon won Mexico's presidential election in an extremely tight race, final official results showed.

Here are some of his main policy proposals:


* Pro-business and pro-foreign investment.



* Backs complementary private investment by Mexican and foreign companies in the natural gas, oil refining and petrochemicals sectors.

* Wants state oil monopoly Pemex to form technology-sharing strategic alliances with foreign oil majors, although state to keep control. Aims to achieve self-sufficiency in natural gas.
It should be emphasized that it's far too narrow and limited to say about Mexico or our current Middle East policy that, "It's all about oil." The numerous manifestations of the obsession with oil on the part of our government and those companies it favors are only a symptom, albeit a glaringly obvious one, of a much deeper problem, one that is systemic in nature.

A little over three years ago (on June 27, 2003), at the end of the third part of a seven-part series about foreign policy (which I will repost at least parts of as I have time), I addressed some of the issues involved. In a section entitled, "The Internationalization of Corporate Statism -- and Perpetual War," I analyzed a lengthy article in the New York Times Magazine, "Nation Builders for Hire," which described in grisly detail the many interlocking mechanisms between the U.S. government and companies like Halliburton, and how their overlapping interests influence and determine our foreign policy. Toward the conclusion of that piece, I wrote:
This eye-opening article demonstrates very powerfully the ways in which this "blurring" and intricate interlocking between government and private business has numerous untold consequences: the costs to U.S. taxpayers are enormous, but it is very difficult to even ascertain what they are; and precisely what our government is actually doing around the world is often camouflaged through the outsourcing mechanism, thus undermining the political process on a fundamental level.

But the most dangerous consequence is this: this entire structure perverts, in the most basic way, what ought to be the purpose of our defense and military policy. The purpose of that policy ought to be to protect America and its citizens from foreign threats -- and in that sense, a sense much deeper than the more superficial (and often misleading) distinction between "defensive" and "preemptive" wars -- the policy ought to be reactive, and not proactive. I most definitely do not mean by this that we must wait until a nuclear bomb goes off in New York City before we take action. If we have strong evidence that a country or terrorist group is planning to attack us, of course we must initiate action.

But we have now reached the point where we appear to believe that we must remake the entire world, so that we can be "safe." I have explained at great length why I do not think such an enterprise can possibly succeed, and there is absolutely no historical evidence to support the notion that it can. But there is an additional point: even if it could succeed, it would bankrupt our own economy in the process, and utterly destroy our country. And it would turn the entire country into an endless series of "outsourcing" companies -- and virtually every citizen would be paid by the taxes of other citizens. Is this truly what people want? I begin to think it is what some people want -- those who benefit from this unholy alliance, whose numbers now grow exponentially.

There is a final point, and I consider this the most important of all -- and again it has to do with the process of making our foreign policy proactive rather than reactive. The very nature of this intertwining of private business with our government, and with our military, makes it appear to be in our self-interest to engage in lengthy periods of foreign occupation -- and in our self-interest to go around the world looking for wars. After all, these private companies employ many U.S. citizens, so it's good for jobs, isn't it? But once again, this is a short-range perspective, and fails to take into account the long-range consequences: all of these U.S. citizens working on military projects of one kind or another are being paid by other U.S. taxpayers -- which means that funds are being diverted from any number of other ends on a gigantic scale. In short, the entire nature of our economy is being distorted -- and more and more of it depends on military intervention and foreign occupation for its very existence, to say nothing of its profitability. This is why the anti-war slogan, "It's all about oil!," is superficial and almost trivial, and misses the much more important point: the entire New Fascist structure, a structure where government becomes indistinguishable from the private sector economy, feeds on war, and on foreign occupation. It is that structure that must be dismantled.
And it is still further results of that structure that we may now be seeing on display once again in the Mexican election mess.

You will find much more about all this and other stories at Greg Palast's site.