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Bombshell court ruling blows open the 2018 Mexican presidential race
Special to the Digie
Jaime "Bronco" Rodriguez
When Mexico's general election campaign
officially began at March’s end, four candidates were qualified for the July 1
presidential ballot. With less than three months to go, the number has
increased to five, maybe six.
In a stunning decision rendered late Monday,
April 9, Mexico's election court, known as TEPJF by its Spanish initials, ruled
that independent Jaime Rodriguez Calderon, governor on leave from the northern
border state of Nuevo Leon, will have a place on the ballot alongside Andres
Manuel Lopez Obrador, Jose Antonio Meade, Margarita Zavala and Ricardo Anaya.
The court also ordered that independent Armando
Rios Piter, senator on leave from the state of Guerrero, will have ten extra days
to prove that he meets the ballot qualification standards.
Rodriguez, popularly called "El
Bronco," and Rios, nicknamed “El Jaguar,” had earlier been disqualified
from the ballot by Mexico’s National Electoral Institute (INE), which found
that the two had submitted hundreds of thousands of fraudulent or irregular,
electronically transmitted nominating petition signatures. The INE is the
official authority in charge of organizing and overseeing federal elections.
To qualify for the ballot, potential independent
candidates, as opposed to party-nominated contenders, each had to submit 866,593
valid signatures of registered voters from at least 17 different states, with
one percent of the voter roll represented in each of the 17 states, as well as
turn in campaign finance information.
Of several independents who attempted to reach
ballot status, Margarita Zavala, former National Action Party (PAN) lawmaker
and wife of former President Felipe Calderon, was the only one to make the INE’s cut-and barely. The federal election
authority found that she too submitted invalid signatures but had enough valid
ones to make the ballot.
In Rodriguez's case, the TEPJF ruled 4-3 that the
INE had violated the hopeful’s due process.INE President Lorenzo Cordova assured that the institute will abide by
the TEPJF's decision. Nonetheless, Cordova defended the INE’s previous
findings, saying in a statement issued by his office that modern technology
aided in identifying fake or photocopied signatures and filtering out “(signatures)
that should not be considered.”
Cordova said the INE would analyze the effects of
the TEPJF’s ruling on election logistics, including the printing of ballots and
the “recently approved” format of the upcoming presidential debates.
Two days after the court ruling, Mexican media
reported that the INE was pressing an investigation with the Special Prosecutor
for Electoral Crimes (Fepade) over illegal signatures submitted by independent
The TEPJF’s resolution produced shock waves
throughout the political system, in the media and on social networks. The
responses ranged from sheer joy to tepid welcome to outright disgust. "El
Bronco," of course, was elated.
"God is great, thank you. Faith is
great," the reborn candidate wrote on his Twitter account.
Rios, who is aiming for the potentially decisive
but nebulous Millennial vote, was likewise overjoyed.
“I have never felt more pride at being a
Mexican,” he gushed on Twitter. “My hope is alive and I see that it is possible
if you have the truth, work and support of the people on your side…”
Skewering the TEPJF, Jenaro Villamil, Proceso magazine journalist and pundit,
accused the majority of justices of undermining hard-won election rules and
In a column, Villamil took the court to task for
ignoring major election law violations that, in Rodriguez's camp, allegedly
included delivering 810,000 "ghost" signatures that did not appear on
the voter roll (Rodriguez delivered 2,034,432 signatures, a surprising amount
for an independent, according to Proceso),
as well as 158,532 signatures that were deemed phony.
The candidate also allegedly deployed Nuevo Leon
state employees in the political campaign during work time and had nearly a
million dollars in campaign funds of "suspicious" origin.
The TEPJF's action means, Villamil contended,
that "important candidates can invent, buy, photocopy and replicate
signatures when necessary and as long as they comply with the necessary
Prominent pundit Denise Dresser likewise lashed
out at a TEPJF decision that "sends the institutions to hell, puts a stamp
of approval on trickery and is subjugated to the (ruling PRI party)" all
with the goal of "dispersing the opposition vote."
Politicians’ reactions to the April 9 court
decision were mixed. Armando Luna Canales, vice-coordinator of the ruling PRI
party's fraction in the lower house of the Mexican Congress told La Jornada newspaper that the ruling was
a positive development. "It's a good resolution that is strictly based in
legality and we will see a bigger choice of candidates for the citizenry,"
Luna was quoted.
Representatives of two of the political parties
(the PAN and PRD) in the electoral coalition that is fielding Ricardo Anaya for
president offered varied opinions. PAN leaders reluctantly accepted the TEPJF's
resolution, with PAN Senator Fernando Herrera insisting that reforms were
needed so all electoral processes "follow a route of transparency, that
the signatures supporting independent candidates are socially validated and
that there exists the least inkling of doubt about the way in which
(signatures) are collected."
PRD Senator Luis Sanchez was creative in his
assessment. "In terms of what Darwin said about the adaptation of the
species, it's now the case that we have a raccoon-wild horse," Sanchez was
quoted in Proceso.
In Mexico, a mapache,
or raccoon in English, is an election-time dirty trickster.
On the campaign trail in Jalisco state,
presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador dismissed the legal decision
as a maneuver of “the power mafia” that runs Mexico.
Alejandro Encinias, a former interim mayor of
Mexico City, commented on the irony of El Bronco-and possibly El Jaguar-gaining
ballot status while another early independent hopeful, “Marichuy,” the
spokeswoman for the Zapatista-supported Indigenous Council of Government, was
rejected for falling far short of the 866, 593 valid signatures, even though
the INE determined that she had submitted the highest percentage of clean
According to Reforma
newspaper, the INE validated 94.5 percent of Marichuy’s signatures.
Quoted in Proceso,
Encinias said, “The moral of the story is that it’s more profitable to break
the law than to obey it.”
Coming prior to the first scheduled presidential
debate, the TEPFJ's ruling this week adds new dynamics to the presidential
race, though it remains to be seen to what degree and to whose benefit.
Meantime, the twists and turns in the first independent
presidential candidacy process permitted under recent Mexican law leave many unanswered
questions in the air with implications for election day, such as the
accusations by former independent contender Pedro Ferriz that widespread
trafficking of voter data marred the independent side of the concluded primary
Author-Journalist Kent Paterson is an expert on
Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta and New Mexico's
Political Year of the Woman
The Digie Zone
Dolores Huerta (Courtesy photo)
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - Looking spry as ever, Dolores Huerta once again
took to the stage April 7 at Albuquerque's annual Cesar Chavez Day, just three
days short of her 88th birthday.
The co-founder of the United Farm Workers union
urged hundreds of people gathered in the plaza of the National Hispanic
Cultural Center to support an effort to make Chicano Studies at the University
of New Mexico (UNM) a master's degree granting program and get ethnic, labor,
women's and LGBTQ studies from kindergarten up in public schools across the
"There's never been a time like this one.
There's so much ignorance out there," Huerta contended, adding that
"our president wouldn't get away with what he is doing" if a more
educated public was part of the political equation.
A native New Mexican who went on to chart a
legendary life of multi-faceted activism from her California base, Huerta
encouraged Burqueños to get involved
in politics, reminding them that her colleague Cesar Chavez spent considerable
time going door-to-door registering people to vote.
Protesting is fine,
"but if we don't get good people elected nothing changes," Huerta
insisted. "We are going to build our own wall, but our wall is going to be
the U.S. Congress...volunteer to campaign. Whatever candidate you choose.
Please campaign for that candidate."
Huerta was introduced by Albuquerque Mayor Tim
Keller, who drew cheers when he said, "she's reminding us and Washington
that we should be building bridges, not walls."
In contrast, Keller elicited boos from the crowd
when he said, "We have a federal government that is trying to take our
police officers literally and send them to the border," a reference to the
Trump administration's recent announcement that it was dispatching National
Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border.
Albuquerque media reported April 5 that the
Albuquerque Police Department was seeking an exemption from a call-up for
several dozen officers who are enlisted in the National Guard because of an
officer shortage and the subsequent risk to public safety cutting available
staffing would entail.
Expert at pumping up a crowd, Huerta dropped a
political bomblet of sorts-and was greeted by another loud round of cheers-
when she said that Native American congressional primary candidate Deb Haaland
needs to get elected.
A former chair of the New Mexico Democratic Party
who hails from Laguna Pueblo, Haaland is in a six way race for Democratic
nomination for the U.S.Congressional
District 1 seat being vacated by gubernatorial hopeful Michelle Lujan Grisham.
Haaland is running against another woman,
attorney Antoinette Sedillo Lopez, and four men: Albuquerque City Councilor Pat
Davis, former U.S. Attorney Damon Martinez, Pat Moya, and Damian Lara.
On the Republican side, former state
Representative Janice Arnold- Jones is the sole candidate in the contest for a
seat widely considered safely Democratic.
In one important sense, a great struggle of
Dolores Huerta's life, advancing women's rights and their representation in
politics, is bearing great fruit in New Mexico this year. While Lujan Grisham
is aiming for the governor's seat, two women are leading contenders to replace
the Albuquerque representative in Washington.
In other key races New Mexico Secretary of State
Maggie Toulouse Oliver is running for reelection, while two women, Madeline
Hildebrandt and Xochitl Torres Small are vying to be the Democratic nominee in
the race for the southern New Mexico Congressional seat Steve Pearce is leaving
to run for governor. As a result of the March 6 elections, the city council of
Sunland Park is now 5-1 majority women.
Yet Huerta's legacy cuts far deeper than
electoral politics, as was showcased at this year's Cesar Chavez Day march and
rally. Every year the event's organizers award the Dolores Huerta and Cesar
Chavez Si Se Puede awards to community activists.
Huerta this year personally handed the award
named after her to Dr. Dely Alcantara, UNM director of population and
geo-spatial studies, and a longtime leader in the local Filipino and Asian
Although often overlooked in histories of the
United Farmworkers Union, Filipino American farmworkers were pivotal in
launching the Delano grape strike of 1965. Filipino American labor leader Larry
Itliong worked alongside Chavez and Huerta in the early years of the movement.
Alcantara spoke about the long-term and
intergenerational nature of activism, exemplified by the Seventh Generation
concept of Native Americans. "It takes seven generations to create a sea
change," Alcantara said. "For change to happen, every single
generation needs to have a voice."
At Cesar Chavez Day, Dolores Huerta's inspiration
was readily evident in the voter registration and issue-specific informational
tables, where women activists were highly visible. A woman who handed free
onions at a photo display that depicted the laboring conditions of contemporary
farmworkers illustrated how the issues, tactics and strategies popularized by
Huerta and Chavez more than a half-century ago are still very much alive in the
Above the onions a sign proclaimed that workers
in southern New Mexico earn a quarter for every bucket of harvested onions,
with 40 buckets needed to earn $10.
Diana Martinez-Campos, an adviser to UNM students
participating in the College Assistance Migrant Program, described the onion
give-away as a method of transmitting the notion that everyone is involved in
agriculture one way or another. She urged the public to contact their
legislators so pro-farmworker legislation could be passed.
Prior to Cesar Chavez Day, UNM activists
organized a week of events dedicated to farmworkers. The sexual abuse of women
farmworkers was among the concerns highlighted on campus last week.
The farm labor display also contained information
about a growing boycott of Wendy's over tomato harvesting.
Led by Florida's Coalition of Immokalee Workers,
the boycotters want Wendy's to sign on to the coalition's Fair Food Program, a
pact agreed to by many fast food chains that upholds worker rights and provides
for wage increases. Wendy's however, claims it adheres to an enhanced supplier
code of conduct.
"Our response in promoting the Wendy's boycott
has been very positive," Martinez-Campos said. "People were
supportive, they didn't know about it...we hope to put a little grain of sand
toward farmworker justice."
Author-Journalist Kent Paterson is an expert on
New Mexico politics.