Mex­i­cans ex­press anger through bal­lots

An in­de­pen­dent is on track for a his­toric win in one state. Vi­o­lence is re­ported else­where.

Los Angeles Times - - THE WORLD - By Tracy Wilkin­son and Cecilia Sanchez wilkin­son@la­times.com Sanchez is a news as­sis­tant in The Times’ Mex­ico City bureau.

MEX­ICO CITY — Amid torched bal­lot boxes and deep public anger, Mex­i­cans voted Sun­day for gov­er­nors, mem­bers of Congress and other of­fi­cials in midterm elec­tions ex­pected to hand more power to the rul­ing party de­spite wide­spread dis­con­tent.

But for the first time in mod­ern Mex­i­can his­tory, a can­di­date not af­fil­i­ated with a po­lit­i­cal party stood a chance of win­ning. Jaime “El Bronco” Ro­driguez was run­ning for gover­nor in the wealthy bor­der state of Nuevo Leon thanks to new elec­tion rules that al­low in­de­pen­dent can­di­da­cies.

Two exit polls gave him the victory. If that holds true, vot­ers will have sent a clear mes­sage on the sta­tus quo, say­ing that no party sat­is­fies the public’s de­mands, an­a­lysts said.

“I am com­ing to vote with the hopes of a ma­jor change, although I know what I’m ask­ing for is a mir­a­cle,” said den­tist Je­sus Tor­res, 42, in Mex­ico City.

“Why vote?” said Jorge Mo­rales, a Mex­ico City res­i­dent who de­spite his at­ti­tude was go­ing to cast a bal­lot. “They are all the same. So many par­ties. Not much choice.”

Glo­ria Perez Bonilla, a 20-year-old stu­dent, said she planned to in­val­i­date her bal­lot in protest.

“It is a shame to have to vote with­out emo­tion, with­out pas­sion for a party,” she said. “I will an­nul my vote to tell the politi­cians that we are tired of them.”

Perez was part of amove­ment to boy­cott or in­val­i­date bal­lots cast in the elec­tions, which will choose nine gov­er­nors, 16 state leg­is­la­tures, 500 mem­bers of the fed­eral Congress and 887 may­ors.

Sev­eral vot­ers said they had been given money or gifts to vote for one party or an­other.

In the south­ern, largely in­dige­nous state of Oax­aca, ten­sion was so high that in­ter­na­tional elec­tion mon­i­tors de­cided to not show up. In­ci­dents that in­cluded the burning of bal­lot boxes and block­ing of en­try­ways to polling sta­tions were re­ported in Oax­aca, Guer­rero and Mi­choa­can states, home to about 8.3 mil­lion vot­ers.

In one Guer­rero city, Tixtla, the elec­tion was can­celed be­cause of at­tacks on vot­ing booths. Pro­test­ers in­cluded a rad­i­cal teach­ers union and sup­port­ers of 43 col­lege stu­dents kid­napped and ap­par­ently killed last year by drug traf­fick­ers work­ing with lo­cal of­fi­cials.

Later, elec­tion of­fi­cials said the vote in Tixtla had re­sumed af­ter res­i­dents armed with sticks in­sisted on vot­ing.

Pres­i­dent Enrique Peña Ni­eto’s In­sti­tu­tional Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Party stands to gain the most, ac­cord­ing to pre­elec­tion polls. Af­ter cast­ing his bal­lot Sun­day, Peña Ni­eto said vi­o­lence was limited to iso­lated in­ci­dents.

The pres­i­dent’s ap­proval rat­ings have tanked, in part be­cause of a slug­gish econ­omy, cor­rup­tion scan­dals, flag­ging re­forms and sev­eral sus­pi­cious mass killings at­trib­uted to au­thor­i­ties, in­clud­ing the 43 col­lege stu­dents.

How­ever, ab­sten­tion and voided bal­lots, though a po­tent sym­bol of public protest, in the end will only help the PRI and other well-or­ga­nized groups, which will al­ways turn out core vot­ers at the polls.

“The elec­tions are not a plebiscite on the Peña Ni­eto gov­ern­ment,” writer Jorge Zepeda Pat­ter­son said on the Sin Em­bargo news web­site. “The pres­i­dent’s party has not done well, but the op­po­si­tion has done the same or worse.”

Lorenzo Cordova, pres­i­dent of the Na­tional Elec­toral In­sti­tute, which or­ga­nizes elec­tions, said only a tiny per­cent­age of vot­ing sta­tions could not open Sun­day. Cordova re­cently came un­der in­tense crit­i­cism when he was se­cretly recorded mak­ing fun of in­dige­nous lead­ers.

“Our sys­tem is work­ing cor­rectly,” Cordova said in a na­tional ad­dress.

Al­fredo Estrella AFP/Getty Images

PRES­I­DENT Enrique Peña Ni­eto af­ter vot­ing in Mex­ico City. His party is ex­pected to gain power.

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