Apr 12, 2018

Bombshell court ruling blows open the 2018 Mexican presidential race, the Digie Zone Network

Bombshell court ruling blows open the 2018 Mexican presidential race
Kent Paterson/Correspondent
Special to the Digie Zone Network

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 candidates. 
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 law.
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 minimum."
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."
Politicos React
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 signatures.
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 season.
Author-Journalist Kent Paterson is an expert on Mexican politics.

Apr 8, 2018

National activist Dolores Huerta promotes Chicano Studies for the University of New Mexico

Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta and New Mexico's Political Year of the Woman

 Kent Paterson/Correspondent

The Digie Zone Network

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 nation.

"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 communities.

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 21st century.  

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.