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Indications of Mexico Election Fraud Mount

Times Staff Writer

Fisherman Francisco Navarro laid a dozen presidential ballots on a plastic tablecloth at the Bocana Beach Restaurant, pointing to the X’s marked in favor of an opposition candidate and then to the papers’ charred edges. Farmers found thousands of these blackened ballots smoldering in a gully by the village of Ometepec, Navarro said.

“Legally we won, but with fraud we lost,” he declared.

Nearby, day laborer Alberto Miranda held up two tally sheets from Precinct 7 in Acapulco. One, the original, showed the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party winning with 137 votes to 99 for its nearest rival. The other--grabbed by irate voters from officials delivering it to a district electoral office three days after the July 6 election--gave 1,000 votes to the government party.

“This is their alchemy (Mexican slang for vote fixing),” Miranda said, pointing to the two tally sheets. “This was the precinct where the governor and the mayor voted.”

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Indications of post-election fraud are mounting throughout Mexico, tarnishing the government’s claim that the balloting was the cleanest in the country’s history. The evidence is turning up in locations as far afield as the state of Nuevo Leon in the north, Michoacan in central Mexico and Guerrero here on the tropical Pacific coast.

The government Election Commission has declared a bare-majority victory of 50.3% for Carlos Salinas de Gortari, candidate of the PRI, as the ruling party is known. His nearest rival, Cuauhtemoc Cardenas, candidate of a coalition of leftist parties, won 31% of the vote, according to official figures.

But there is still doubt about Salinas’ margin of victory and, among some Mexicans, about whether he won at all.

“We believe Cardenas won, and we want him to be president,” said Eliodor Palomares, 61, a father of six and a voter in coastal Coyuca de Benitez.

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Call for Demonstration

It is not clear how far voters--or candidates--will go to press their claims. Cardenas has called for a major demonstration Saturday in Mexico City. In Coyuca and nearby Atoyac and San Jeronimo, supporters of Cardenas have encircled town halls for three days to protest the election results.

Cardenas’ campaign coordinator for Coyuca, Noe Rodriguez, said that his poll watchers were able to collect only 27 tally sheets from the municipality’s 72 polling places. So, to try to prove Cardenas’ assertion that he won, campaign workers are collecting signatures from people who say they voted Cardenas and having these lists notarized to compare them to the official results.

Guerrero appears to have been a hotly disputed state, and supporters of Cardenas here voiced numerous complaints about fraud.

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Opposition poll watchers were to have been given carbon copies of tally sheets signed by officials from each polling place at closing time on Election Day. Bernardino Rodriguez said that he was a Cardenas observer at poll No. 22B in Acapulco but that the poll president refused him a copy of the tally.

Rolando Ortiz, manager of the Cardenas campaign in Guerrero, showed a reporter a stack of what appeared to be original carbons of tallies from polls in Acapulco. In four selected at random, the results on the carbon were higher for Cardenas than those on the official results.

In Chilpancingo, capital of Guerrero, Enrique Galeana, a PRI vote coordinator, responded to the allegations of fraud by saying, “We are convinced we won the entire state.”

As the Election Commission announced official results in Mexico City on Wednesday night, one of commission’s opposition members, Jorge Amador, hauled out boxes of ballots, some partially burned and others he said were simply dumped in the street.

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“In many garbage dumps and on isolated roads, in some rivers of the republic are flowing electoral materials marked in favor of parties of the opposition,” Amador said.


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