One week after the most viciously contested presidential election in the history of modern Mexico, a Florida-sized fraud looms over the Mexican landscape, and the nation has been divided almost exactly in half along political, economic, geographical and racial lines. Right-winger Felipe Calderón’s questionable 243,000-vote victory over left-wing populist Andrés Manuel López Obrador (known by his initials, AMLO) splits the country between the industrial north and the impoverished, indigenous south. The cliffhanger election also pits an indignant Indian and mestizo underclass that believes López Obrador was swindled out of the presidency by electoral chicanery against a wealthy white conservative minority that controls the nation’s media, its banks and, apparently, the Federal Electoral Institute (IFE), Mexico’s ultimate electoral authority. López Obrador charges the IFE and its president, Luis Carlos Ugalde, with orchestrating Calderón’s uncertain triumph.
At a raucous rally July 8 that put hundreds of thousands of supporters in Mexico City’s vast Zocalo plaza, the political heart of the nation, López Obrador called upon his people to demand a complete vote-by-vote recount of the results. Speaking from a flatbed truck set up in front of the National Palace, the official seat of the Mexican government, the former Mexico City mayor characterized President Vicente Fox as “a traitor to democracy” and accused the IFE of electoral fraud.
Indeed, fraud was the central motif of the mammoth meeting. Large photos of Ugalde slugged “Wanted for Electoral Fraud” were slapped up on central city walls, and tens of thousands of protesters waved homemade signs dissing the IFE official in colorful epithets unfit for publication on this website. Throughout the rally (which was billed as an “informative assembly”), the huge throng repeatedly drowned out López Obrador’s pronouncements with thunderous chants of “No to Fraude Electoral!”
The gathering in the Zocalo signaled the kickoff to what some here call “the second election in the street,” an effort to pressure electoral officials into a ballot-by-ballot recount that López Obrador is convinced will show that he was the winner of the July 2 election. The IFE has resisted such a recount.