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Leftist Screens Videos He Says Prove Fraud in Mexico Vote


Ginger Thompson

july 11, 2006

MEXICO CITY, July 10 — On the morning after his campaign filed a legal challenge to last week’s presidential elections, the leftist candidate, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, stepped up his public campaign against the vote, screening two videos that he said proved the election was flawed.

One video showed what he described as a voter in President Vicente Fox’s home state of Guanajuato illegally stuffing a ballot box in the race for Congress.

The other video, he said, showed that election officials in the state of Querétaro had wrongly given his conservative opponent, Felipe Calderón, 200 more votes than he had actually won at one polling station.

It was not possible to verify the authenticity or content of the videos, or whether the content had any bearing on the race for president. Still, the screening of the videos at a news conference added to Mexico’s strong sense of political uncertainty.

It also offered a glimpse of the kinds of materials that Mr. López Obrador is likely to present in coming weeks as he tries to drum up support for his legal challenge.

Election authorities announced last week that Mr. Calderón, a former energy minister, had defeated Mr. López Obrador by a slim margin of 243,000 votes out of 41 million cast. Those results have not been ratified by the Federal Electoral Tribunal, which has until Aug. 31 to rule on whether it will grant Mr. López Obrador’s request for a recount.

Until it does, Mexico remains without a settled heir to the presidency. President Fox’s spokesman, Rubén Aguilar, said Monday that Mr. Fox would not meet with either Mr. Calderón or Mr. López Obrador until the electoral tribunal had certified the winner, which it has yet to do.

President Fox, meanwhile, made his first public appearances since the elections and did not speak about the matter.

Mr. López Obrador, of the Democratic Revolutionary Party, was given until Monday night to finish filing his complaint. His aides have said the complaint will highlight irregularities at more than half the 300 district offices across the country. The videos, they said, were intended to bring those accusations to life.

“This is an election where we confronted all the apparatus, and all the mapaches we thought did not exist anymore,” Mr. López Obrador said, using the Mexican slang for someone who oversees cheating at the polls. “This is the kind of thing that happened in the past. We were supposed to have advanced.”

Mr. Calderón, of the National Action Party, rejects those accusations, saying that the elections were the most transparent in Mexico’s history. He has said he opposes a recount because it could force authorities to annul the election.

Arturo Sarukhán, an adviser to Mr. Calderón, said their campaign would have no response to the videos. He said Mr. Calderón had been in meetings all day with campaign leaders to begin preparing for the transition of power. And he said that next week Mr. Calderón would begin traveling across the country to thank people for their support.

After the screening, political analysts and experts in election law were abuzz with speculation.

Denise Dresser of the Autonomous Technological Institute of Mexico said she was beginning to wonder whether Mr. López Obrador, the former mayor of Mexico City, had found any real smoking guns, or had opened a campaign of smoke and mirrors.

Ms. Dresser said Mr. López Obrador was using the same strategy he employed last year during an attempt by the government to disqualify him from the election over a land dispute.

“He’s sowing the seeds of doubt,” she said, “which is enough for the people who supported him, even though it shouldn’t be.”

John M. Ackerman, an expert on electoral law at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, argued that a recount would strengthen democracy by removing public doubt about the transparency of the process. He said he believed that Mr. López Obrador had shown enough evidence to raise the tribunal’s attention.

“They have a real case,” he said of the López Obrador campaign.

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