The Americas Blog

El Blog de las Americas

The Americas Blog seeks to present a more accurate perspective on economic and political developments in the Western Hemisphere than is often presented in the United States. It will provide information that is often ignored, buried, and sometimes misreported in the major U.S. media.

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Welcome to our live blog of Mexico’s historic elections today. See our introductory post here.

All update times are Eastern time zone.

UPDATE 11:12 PM: FEPADE provided an updated tally on electoral complaints received throughout the day. Throughout the country there were 394 complaints at the federal level, and even more concerning local races. 19 people were arrested for federal electoral crimes. 

UPDATE 11:08 PM: And now President Donald Trump has tweeted his congratulations to president-elect Obrador. 

 

UPDATE 11:01 PM: Mitofsky has now released its Senate exit polls, which indicate a possible majority for Morena and allies with 56-70 seats. There are 128 seats in the senate. 

Mitofsky mex sen poll 

UPDATE 10:36 PM: U.S. Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chairs, Rep. Raul Grijalva and Rep. Mark Pocan, have released a statement following Obrador’s likely victory. 

CPC mexico

UPDATE 10:27 PM: Pollster Mitofsky has just released exit poll data estimating Moreno and it’s allies in “Together We Will Make History” winning between 256 and 291 seats – a majority. 
WhatsApp Image 2018 07 01 at 10.17.10 PM

UPDATE 10:12 PM: Argentina issued a statement congratulating Obrador on his election victory. Again, official results are based on only 0.32 percent of total ballots, but as Richard Ensor of The Economist points out, these early returns indicate a broad-based victory for Obrador:  

UPDATE 9:45 PM: Official results have just started being posted by INE, but the results appear irreversible. Ricardo Anaya of the PAN has also just conceded defeat to López Obrador. 

UPDATE 9:31 PM: More exit polls are giving AMLO around 50 percent of the vote. ADN has AMLO with 51 percent to Anaya’s 23 percent, with Meade again at 18 percent. The Washington Post is reporting: “Several exit polls gave Lopez Obrador a double-digit lead over his two closest competitors….”

UPDATE 9:18 PM: El Financiero is also projecting Morena with 38 percent of the vote for the chamber of deputies (the legislative lower house), the PAN with 22 percent, the PRI with 18 percent, the PRD with 6 percent, and the PT (Workers’ Party) with 4 percent.

UPDATE 9:16 PM: The ruling PRI’s presidential candidate, Jose Antonio Meade, has conceded defeat to Obrador before official results are announced. 

UPDATE 9:11 PM: El Financiero’s presidential exit poll has been released and it shows Morenas’ Obrador with 49 percent of the vote. Anaya of the PAN is in second with 29 percent, and the PRI’s Meade is in third with 18 percent, according to the poll. 

UPDATE 8:52 PM: The 5:00 pm report from Diálogos por la Democracia is now available. They say they “received and tracked and directed” 198 citizen complaints, of which 52 were for “soliciting votes for payment, promises of money, or other consideration.”

UPDATE 8:43 PM: An observer in Tlaxcala reported at 8:20 pm:

[They’re conducting the count for] President and diputado at the same time here In Tlaxcala. All mesas/casillas can decide if they are going to take additional security measures. At this casilla, they signed (have to confirm how many / who) as an extra security measure. Most we visited today were not signing. In another area of Tlaxcala they had stolen some ballots previous to the election. In addition to reprinting, they required signatures (2 mesa, 2 partidos) on every ballot. Wind in a tent is complicating working with lots of paper ballots…

Counting in Tlaxcala.

UPDATE 8:37 PM: In a series of tweets (ongoing), the #Verificado2018 project reported the confirmed cases of electoral violence and irregularities in Puebla state today. A PRI activist was killed in the municipality of Acolihuia. At the Emiliano Zapata school in Barranca Honda, 8-10 gunmen showed up at around 2 PM and fire off shots, temporarily closing the center. At a voting center in Colonia Fuentes de San Aparicio shots were fired and ballots for president and governor were stolen. Ballots were also stolen in San Sebastián by seven armed individuals. 

UPDATE 8:28 PM: An observer in Jilotepec reports:

Here in Section 2260 in Jilotepec, the counting of blank ballots is finished and now a poll worker is reading out the number of registered voters that have voted on each page of the thick voter registry for casilla contigua 3 while all of the party representatives confirm that his count matches their count, page by page. In a few places there are discrepancies which they resolve. In total, 459 of 650 registered voters deposited ballots in the urns of this casilla.

Counting at Jilotepec section 2260.

With that done, on to the tallying, starting with the ballots for the presidential election. They are all dumped on a table by the president of the casilla, and the poll workers begin to unfold each ballot. Another long process. [They’re tallying the municipal ballots and the presidential ballots at the same time.]

UPDATE 8:20 PM: At 8:06 pm, observers reported that rain did indeed begin to pour at casilla 0734 in Coyoacán, “forcing a hurried move inside an auditorium next to the casilla.”

Rain at casilla 0734 in Coyoacan.

UPDATE 8:16 PM: Exit polls being reported by El Financiero project the next governor of Jalisco will be the Citizens Movement candidate Enrique Alfaro, and in Guanajuato the “Por Guanajuato al frente” candidate Diego Sinhué. The governor’s race in Yucatán is projected to be between the PAN and Citizens Movement candidate Mauricio Vila and the PRI-Green Party candidate Mauricio Sahuí. In Veracruz, the race is projected to be down to the “Together We Will Make History” candidate Cuitláhuac García and the “Por Veracruz al frente” candidate Miguel Ángel Yunes. In Puebla, the race is projected to be between Miguel Barbosa of the “Together We Will Make History” coalition, and the candidate of the “Por Puebla al frente,” Martha Erika Alonso.

UPDATE 7:59 PM: An observer reports: “Here at casilla 0734 [in Coyoacán], they are lining up on the ground to help organize the ballots. But there is no electric light. They are trying to run a cable to a nearby store. And it is about to start raining. Lining up sheets of paper. They have a tent, but the ballots are being organized on the ground and if it rains they may get wet.”

Casilla 0734, preparing to count.

UPDATE 7:51 PM: At 7:42 pm, an observer at casilla Tlaxcala 453 reported: “They closed the gate at 6 (people in line within the fence could stay in line/vote) so people broke the fence to get in. Looks like police had it all under control, no further incident.”

Fence at casilla Tlaxcala 453

Broken fence at casilla Tlaxcala 453.

UPDATE 7:42 PM: El Financiero reports exit polls projecting candidates from the “Together We Will Make History” (Juntos Haremos Historia) Coalition (of which AMLO is the presidential candidate) winning the governors’ seats in Morelos, Tabasco, Chiapas, Puebla, and Veracruz  [between two candidates in each] as well as Mexico City.

UPDATE 7:34 PM: More updates are coming in from the network of observers that have been out across the country today: “District 30 in Estado de México: no serious irregularities to report all along our route today, from Valle de Bravo to Tejupilco and back, 9 polling stations and about 30 casillas. High participation, roughly 70%, and calm atmosphere everywhere …Lots of dedicated citizens doing their best to make these elections happen in a peaceful and orderly manner. Polls just about to close back here in Valle de Bravo and the initial counting process will soon begin under a tent in a playground protecting us from heavy rain. Here there are four casillas bunched together in one small space but somehow it has worked.”

UPDATE 7:31 PM: An observer reports on the closing of polls in a different center in Jilotepec. “Here in casilla contigua 3 of section 2260 in Jilotepec they’ve just brought the five ballot boxes from outside into a classroom where the poll workers are setting things up and the party reps, two per party here, are sitting behind desks and waiting. There was a little drama a short while ago when two elderly women came to vote just as the president of the casilla declared the casilla closed. The late-comers were not allowed to vote. A younger woman was irate as she said that the women had arrived at the center several minutes before 6 and had had trouble identifying the casilla where they could vote.”

And, another update a few minutes later which adds more detail on the process at the close of the day: “The poll workers are now counting the blank ballots. Afterwards, the total of blank ballots and filled in ballots will be calculated with the expectation that it will match the total of blank ballots that the casilla was given. Once the blank ballots are counted the president of the casilla draws two lines through each blank ballot, making them null and void. Though the president is marking the ballots quickly it’s a slow process given that there five sets of at least a hundred blank ballots.”
WhatsApp Image 2018 07 01 at 7.27.38 PM

UPDATE 7:12: As a long election day comes to a close, a long night of counting begins. An observer reports: “We are now in the closing of a polling station in Jilotepec. In accordance with Mexican law, they have asked all but one representative of each party to leave. One person from each party will stay behind for the opening of the ballot boxes and the initial organization and counting of the ballots. Here in the Estado de México, there are five races, so five separate ballots, which all need to be opened and organized. This is just the first step in a long process of getting this count started.”

UPDATE 7:10 PM: Bloomberg’s and El Financiero are beginning to release exit poll data. Eric Martin writes for the Bloomberg live-blog

We’re starting to get our first exit polls in, and El Financiero is projecting that Claudia Sheinbaum, the Morena candidate, will be the next mayor of Mexico City.

Sheinbaum’s win was widely expected, as she has been leading polls. Sheinbaum, a 55-year-old scientist, previously served as head of the Tlalpan neighborhood in southern Mexico City. Candidates from the left or left-led coalitions have controlled the mayor’s office in the capital since the 1990s.

Martin notes that governor races in Pueblo and Veracruz are “too close to call.” 

UPDATE 7:06 PM: Update from an observer at 6:03 PM local time: “Casillas 0734 & 0732 in Coyoacán, all quiet. High turnout. 80% & 76.5%. At 6 PM noone was in line. The president declared the casilla closed. everyone applauded and some shouted ‘para democracia.'”

UPDATE 7:03 PM: As polling centers begin to close, INE has begun counting votes from Mexicans abroad. Journalist Jorge Ramos noted earlier that it was “shameful and a failure” that only 98,000 sent votes from abroad when there are more than 12 million Mexicans living outside the country. In a tweet, Ramos wrote: “It seems that the system is made so that we do not participate.”

UPDATE 6:58 PM: The #Verificado2018 project provides an update on reported violent conflicts impacting the vote in Veracruz. According to the local electoral office, casilla 0955 en Coatzintla was forced to close twice due to violence, but voting has continued. In Coatzacoalcos a shootout occured, but not, as had been reported, near a voting center. 

UPDATE 6:46 PM: INE member Ciro Murayama notes that due to high levels of participation many voting centers may not be able to close at 6 PM (local time), which may delay the release of preliminary results (expected to begin around 8 PM). Meanwhile, Leonel Fernandez, the head of the OAS electoral observation mission has issued a statement noting that the election has so far transpired without major incidents, and has seen “massive participation.” 

UPDATE 6:30 PM: There are images posted on Twitter, and media reports, of men burning ballots at casilla 0381 in the Escuela Primaria José María Morelos y Pavón in Chilcota, Michoacán.

UPDATE 6:24 PM: @Andalalucha has been Tweeting about the numbers of people waiting to vote at casillas especiales:

Polling places close at 6:00 pm local time.

UPDATE 6:15 PM: T.M. Scruggs, an observer with the Scholars’ and Citizens’ Network for Democracy, reports:

All 9 casillas visited today in 4 towns and cities in the SW part of Mexico State have proceeded with tranquillity and appear organized and well run. No waiting longer than 20 minutes observed except at the Casilla Especial in Ixtapan de la Sal where the wait was at least an hour for the non-local residents.

The generalized late opening of voting booths appears to be related to the complexity of five ballots due the five levels of voting, from federal to municipal level. Even where the materials arrived on time the poll workers needed to arrive earlier than last year’s comparatively less complicated one. In SW Mexico State for example the ten casillas we have observed started setting up at 7:30 am when they really needed to begin at 7 am, the hour designated as such by the INE. All these casillas opened between 8:30 and 9:30 am [correction: 9:00 am] with exception of one that opened just after 9:30 am.

UPDATE 5:49 PM: MVS Noticias reports that observers from Central America are concerned by the lack of sufficient ballots at the casillas especiales, and plan to report to the INE about it.

El Economista also reports on the “chaos” in special polling places, where people have been waiting several hours to vote.

UPDATE 5:33 PM: An update on casilla Alvaro Obregón 3458 from a different observer: “When we arrived, dozens were milling outside, one woman in particular appeared to be floor manager, on the phone she openly talked about running electoral operation, when I approached she subsequently ducked into house in front of casilla, we approached INE official, claimed not to be aware; subsequently he came out and publicly admitted the PRD was fighting tooth and nail for this casilla, we have audio; after our complaint the area cleared out!”

PRD house across the street from casilla Alvaro Obregón 3458.
PRD house across the street from casilla Alvaro Obregón 3458.

UPDATE 5:19 PM: In Iztapalapa, some 583 ballots were stolen, according to the head of government in Mexico City, José Ramón Amieva (see 2:41 pm update, below). He added that there was no process for the replacement of ballots and so those individuals at Casille 2567 in Ampliación Santiago, will not be able to vote. Arnieva also noted the late opening at various polling centers this morning. 

UPDATE 5:09 PM: FEPADE provides updated figures on electoral complaints. By 2 PM local time, there had been 1,106 denunciations of possible electoral crimes across the country, 640 at the community level and 466 at the federal level. The states with the highest number of complaints are Pueblo (127), CDMX (51), Mexico State (46), Chiapas (38), Oaxaca (27) and Veracruz (25). Seventeen individuals have been detained.  

UPDATE 5:02 PM: Aristegui Noticias reports that a Labor Party activist, Flora Reséndiz González, was killed today when leaving her home in the community of Contepec in Michoacán state. In another report, the Michoacán electoral institute confirmed to Aristegui Noticias that it had cancelled elections in the indigenous community of Nahuatzen and has had to close some voting centers in other communities in the region following electoral violence and other irregularities. 

UPDATE 4:53 PM: More from an observer at casilla 3458 Álvaro Obregón, CDMX: “The Morena representative told us and the INE representative that he had filed a complaint with FEPADE about the obvious vote buying by what he said was the PRD.” The observer noted that the house the PRD is operating from is located across the street from the voting center.

Since Thursday FEPADE, the electoral crimes authority, has received 534 complaints according to the agencies director, Héctor Días Santana. 460 of the complaints came before election day, while 74 were recorded by noon today. 

UPDATE 4:30 PM: An observer reported at 3:17 pm ET: “250/534 have voted in Tchiautempan, Tlaxcala (section 133). Busy, tranquilo, organized. Things have been pretty calm in Tlaxcala (besides the 1 chaotic one we saw with halcones).”

Journalist James Fredrick reported that voters were waiting more than six hours to vote at the Hospital General, Del. Cuauhtemoc due to insufficient ballots:

Another observer reports: “At casilla 3458 Álvaro Obregón, CDMX, we spoke with a woman who made an accusation to us that as soon as we appeared a group scattered that had been checking people’s names and looking at their phones. The INE representative on site and the president of the casilla said they hadn’t seen anything irregular. A bit more than 50 percent have voted here.”

UPDATE 4:16 PM: An observer reports: “In the rural areas around Jilotepec, things have been busy, but calm. There haven’t been many irregularities, but in Soyaniquilpan, Morena representatives had reported to the INE officials excessive use of cell phones inside the polling station by members of other parties – this can be a way of organizing the illegal coercion of voters. Outside that polling place, we saw others, on their phones, with lists of voters. This indicates to us that the party in question – in this case, the PRI – is organizing the mobilization of voters in ways that violate the electoral laws.”

Another observer updates us from elsewhere in Jilotepec: “At 2:50 pm, 58 percent of registered voters had voted in the rural voting center of section 2296 in Doxhicho, Jilotepec, EDOMEX. Everywhere I’ve been poll workers are commenting on the unusually high level of voter participation so far in these elections. And I’ve encountered no major incidents in the seven voting centers I’ve visited in the municipality of Jilotepec.”

UPDATE 4:09 PM: The NGO Democracia sin Pobreza is mapping reports of vote-buying, including locations where the reports have been validated with photographic or video evidence.

The RUCD has posted its first formal report (only in Spanish, for now) here.

Jan-Albert Hootsen of the Committee to Protect Journalists Tweeted: “In Parral (Chihuahua State, northern Mexico), a journalist was reportedly beat up as he was reporting at a voting booth,” and “Media in Veracruz report that a voting station was temporarily closed due to the appearance of a group of unidentified armed individuals. The booth is now open again.”

UPDATE: 3:54 PM: More reports of problems in Ecatepec. @Andalalucha posted a video on Twitter of voters, who reportedly have waited over four hours, demanding more ballots so that they can vote. And the RUCD observation group that includes John Ackerman says: “In Ecatepec, State of Mexico our observation group was threatened by an aggressive individual over our effort to prevent fraud. We also spoke to several residents who said they were offered goods and money in exchange for their vote and a report of someone trying to vote twice.”

UPDATE 3:10 PM: Reports of ballot shortages are coming in from various “casillas especiales,” for voters outside of their regular precincts. Each casilla especial has only 750 ballots, but in some locations, many more than that are turning out to vote. Journalist Martha Pskowski Tweeted around 2:00 pm ET:

An observer reported at 1:00 pm: “In Oxtotitlán, Mexico State, obvious alcohol consumption in the small plaza where the voting area is located. Also multiple small stores selling beer and other drinks.” Mexican states have a “dry law” prohibiting alcohol sales for at least 24 hours around election day.

UPDATE 2:59 PM: Journalist Arturo Cano reports that Morena has denounced vote-buying by the PRD at casilla 1699 en el Barrio Los Reyes, Iztacalco, Mexico City:

UPDATE 2:49 PM: International media, as well as numerous electoral observers, are reporting long lines at polling stations in Mexico City and various locations in Mexico State, and elsewhere:

Meanwhile, rumors of “erased” ballot marks have been a concern today. Dialogos por la Democracia tells voters that they can indeed use their own pen to mark their ballot:


UPDATE: 2:41 PM: The #Verificado2018 project reports that a casilla president in Iztapalapa (a Mexico City borough) says armed gunmen stole ballots from him. And it reports that Instituto Electoral de Michoacán (IEM) electoral officials have confirmed the armed theft of ballots, but say they do not know how many have been stolen.

UPDATE 2:06 PM: An observer reports: “At Jilotepec, section 2260, casilla contigua 1, around 160 people had voted at 12:19 pm.”

Another observer in Coyoacán reports: “Casilla 0354: one basic and 6 contiguous, 4565 voters, full, we managed to get pollsters out of the polling place.”

Casilla 0354, Coyoacán

UPDATE 1:58 PM: At 1:22 pm, an observer reported: “Casilla 0481, Coyoacán. Only evident issue is small size of the local which delays vote.”

Casilla 0481, Coyoacan

UPDATE 1:54 PM: Observers have consistently reported long lines at “special” voting centers, set up to allow people traveling outside their home district to vote. Ciro Murayama, an INE electoral counselor, tweeted that each of these centers has only 750 ballots as stipulated in the electoral law and that many would not be able to vote. Christy Thornton tweeted that at one such voting center in Jilotepec she counted around 200 people in line to vote.

UPDATE 1:47 PM: Duncan Tucker, regional media manager for Amnesty International tweets: 

UPDATE 1:20 PM: INE president Lorenzo Córdova recently made a statement, declaring the electoral process was occurring in a situation of calm and without major incidents. He said that, of the 156,807 casillas, only 4 were not installed. Observers, however, have reported that a large number of casillas did not open on time.

UPDATE 1:14 PM: An observer reports: “A somewhat chaotic voting center in San Isidro Buensuceso (neighborhood), San Pablo del Monte (municipio), sección 363, Tlaxcala. Casillas are close together. We saw a ‘halcón’ ? a boy up on the balcony to watch the votes happening below [which is illegal]. People watching/monitoring voters (no lists). No security. The INE told us that the municipal government refused to provide security or lunch, citing the veda electoral [the pre-election day period in which campaigning and politicking is banned, as is dissemination of government messages].”

Casilla at San Isidro Buensuceso

UPDATE 1:03 PM: More reports are coming in of how widespread the late opening of polling places has been today. A observer tells us, “Here in Districto 1 of Jilotepec, only 11 of 116 casillas were open at 9:20 am.” José Roberto Ruiz, an electoral advisor to the INE, Tweeted earlier today:

UPDATE 12:54 PM: Journalist Jeff Abbott Tweeted to us:

UPDATE 12:49 PM: An RUCD brigade that includes Father Miguel Concha, director of the Vitoria Center; Laura Carlsen, director of the Americas Program at the Center for International Policy; Father Alejandro Solalinde; and law professor John Ackerman of the Instituto de Investigaciones Juridicas at UNAM is beginning their voting observations in Ecatepec, Mexico State, where they will visit 11 casillas. They recorded this message earlier (and are planning to livestream here).

Also in Ecatepec, an observer reports: “A lot of problems in Ecatepec. We already saw two ‘casas amigas’, intimidations, etc.” Latin American studies professor Christy Thornton, who is also observing the elections today, has previously described a casa amiga as a place “where [party] operatives coordinate various kinds of voter coercion, from outright buying of votes to incentivizing individuals to bring five or ten others with them to the polls.”

UPDATE 12:45 PM: Local media have reported that a 45 year old woman was shot and killed while she waited to vote this morning in Cárdenas, Tabasco. 

UPDATE 12:42 PM: Christy Thornton points out that false information has been circulating for months on social networks and today is no different; it is “meant to confuse and intimidate voters.” A message has been circulating on WhatsApp today purporting to come from the president of a voting center saying the markers used are being erased. The message is false. 

UPDATE 12:00 PM: At 11:45 AM, an election observer reported: “At casilla 0740 [in Coyoacán], two young women without INE accreditation were polling voters. But when we asked the president [of the casilla], he asked the police officer to investigate, and they produced this document.”

INE accreditation document?

UPDATE 11:21 AM: The Scholar and Citizen Network for Democracy tweets:

UPDATE 11:13 AM: Electoral officials are pushing back against criticism that the election is disorganized, manifest in the late opening of so many polling places. INE spokespersons are saying that everyone in line before polling places close will be able to vote.

UPDATE 11:01 AM: Here is the ballot that voters will use today to mark their choice for president. (courtesy of @Andalalucha). 

Mex pre ballot

UPDATE 10:56 AM: The New York Timesreports on the impact of electoral violence on local races, especially in more rural areas:

In the long run-up to the vote, much of the national and international focus has been on the presidential contest. Yet for the millions of people living in the most violent parts of the country, elections for local office may have the biggest impact on their daily lives.

And organized crime groups have all but decided many of those outcomes already.

“No one has been more active during these campaigns” than these criminal groups, said Alejandro Martínez, a top official for the center-right National Action Party in Guerrero, one of the poorest and most violent states in Mexico.

Scores, if not hundreds, have abandoned their candidacies out of fear for their lives. Some parties have not been able to field nominees willing to contest certain posts.

Some candidates have been forced to travel in armored cars flanked by bodyguards and to wear body armor in public. In parts of the most violent states, threats have made campaigning impossible.

“You have to be a little crazy to run for office here,” Mr. Martínez said.

Collusion between politicians and criminal organizations in Mexico is not new. But over the past decade, criminals have increasingly sought to co-opt local politics by trying to influence the electoral process, using violence to effectively handpick slates of candidates.

UPDATE 10:51 AM: The permanent session of the INE, where electoral counselors and political party representatives are present, can be viewed live here. Lorenzo Cordova, president of the INE, stated that there is “no room for fraud” in the elections. Political party representatives don’t seem to agree, however.

UPDATE 10:45 AM: Diálogos por la Democracia at UNAM is urging people to report voting irregularities or fraud that they witness today:

Diálogos por la Democracia flyer urging reporting of voting fraud and irregularities.

UPDATE 10:35 AM: An observer reported, at 10:26, a long line of 100 waiting in Ixtapan de la Sal to vote in a Casilla Especial. “These Special Precincts allow for casting the US equivalent of provisional ballots. These are used for people who are outside of their voting precincts, in this case many are visiting from nearby Mexico City. There are only 750 ballots in total, which at the current rate will last only until around noon.”

Long line of voters at Ixtapan de la Sal casilla especial

UPDATE 10:29 AM: Aristegui Noticias reports on electoral violence and attempted vote buying in Chiapas. In Mapastepec, two individuals were detained with envelopes of pesos and lists of intended recipients. In Venustiano Carranza a group of armed people reportedly attempted to steal electoral materials. And the Network of Electoral Observers of Chiapas denounced the intensification of attempts by party and government officials to coerce voters over the last few days, including though conditioning federal and state programs on how individuals voted. Full article here.

UPDATE 10:25 AM: At 9:20, journalist Martha Pskowski Tweeted:

 She reported at 10:20: “It’s open! Over 200 people were in line by the time it opened.”

UPDATE 10:20 AM: Observers reported voting finally started to begin 53 minutes late at Ixtapan de la Sal, and Coyoacán 0729 (Mexico City), respectively:

First votes at Ixtapana de la Sal

Ixtapan de la Sal: 8:53, first votes cast. Indelible ink applied to finger to prevent “Chicago style” multiple voting.

Voters enter Coyoacan 0729

8:53 am: voters entering Coyoacan 0729, election here underway.

UPDATE 10:09 AM: At 9:50 ET, an observer reported: “Voters losing patience with election officials who have not yet opened the polls here in Jilotepec. Some of the polling places are missing the officials who will tally the votes, and they cannot open without them.”

Voters losing patience at Jilotepec

UPDATE 10:04 AM:

There’s a report of more than 15 people in a casilla in Ecatepec, going over the electors list, listening and observing to check who is voting. They are reportedly not all accredited as party or INE representatives, so this is illegal.

UPDATE 9:55 AM: Reports are coming in from various areas of polling stations opening late. In many districts across the Estado de México (Mexico State), polls were still being set up at 8:30, a half hour after they are supposed to open. Party representatives were still being accredited and ballot boxes assembled, while voters began to assemble and ask the electoral officials when they can vote. In Ixtapan de la Sal (in Mexico State, just outside Mexico City) the lista was being reviewed and blank ballots counted, and voting still had not started at 8:45am.

At 8:45, Coyoacán 377 in Mexico City was just starting to open. Voters are protesting the late start at Coyoacan 729. In Coyoacán 0377, CDMX, similarly. the polls still had not opened by 8:30 am. None of the parties have representation because the list given to the presidenta was out of date, and the party representatives did not appear on the list, so they will need to get an updated list from the INE (electoral authority), but that means the poll will not be watched for several hours, at least.

Caja awaiting ballots, Coyoacan.

Caja awaiting ballots, Coyoacán

UPDATE 9:43 AM:La Jornada reports on violence impacting the electoral process in Michoacan state. Three were killed on Friday night in a conflict between PRI and PRD activists. Also, the INE has opted to not set up 12 ballot boxes in Nahuatzen after some 3,000 ballots were burned. Reuters has more on the specifics of the conflict in Nahuatzen, where indigenous communities have rejected the electoral process:

Nahuatzen is part of a growing movement among Mexico’s indigenous communities, who are seeking self-rule and turning their backs on mainstream elections. Dissent in Michoacan ignited seven years ago, ahead of the 2012 presidential election, when just one jurisdiction, the municipality of Cheran, opted out of voting.

This year, the boycott spread to six additional municipalities affecting dozens of polling stations across the 16 towns, home to at least 50,000 voters.

UPDATE 9:29 AM: Photos of preparation for the vote. Here, journalists in Mexico City await AMLO’s arrival to cast his vote.

Journalists await AMLO's arrival

Setting up the casilla in Tlaxcala:

Setting up casilla in Tlaxcala

Line for a casilla in the Coyoacán district of Mexico City:

Line for casilla in the Coyoacán district.

UPDATE 9:10 AM: Polls are meant to open at 8am local time and observers have reported lines forming outside many voting centers. And so begins a historic election day throughout Mexico. Exit polls are expected around 8pm with official results coming hours later. 

UPDATE 8:30 AM: La Jornada reports this morning that four PRD activists were killed and four more were wounded yesterday in the State of Mexico after discovering activists affiliated with the PRI handing out food to potential voters. 

UPDATE 8:15 AM: Already, at 6am, the RUCD team in Jardines de Morelos, Ecatepec, reports that they arrived to find no microbus service running. They went to the base for the buses, and for more than 50 busses assembled. A team member asked a driver there, and she was told there was no service because all were going “to the INE” – the electoral authority. As these busses have no reason to go to the offices of the electoral authority, it was clear that the driver meant they were assembled to transport voters. This is an illegal but quite common process called ‘acarreo,’ where parties arrange to bring voters to the polls in groups – a violation of electoral law.


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Welcome to our live blog on Mexico’s 2018 national elections. Throughout the day, we will be bringing you on-the-ground reports from international observers deployed in different parts of the country, as well as sharing updates from Mexican and international media outlets, and from social media sources with a record for reliable and accurate information. This blog will be updated frequently during and immediately following the July 1 elections, so be sure to check back regularly.

On July 1, Mexicans voters will be electing federal, state, and local officials to over 3,400 positions, including a new president, legislators in both houses of Congress, and thousands of local and state officials. The most recent polls suggest that outsider candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador ? of the left-of-center Morena party ? will likely win the presidential election by a wide margin. For the first time in nearly 90 years, a political party other than the centrist PRI (which had uninterrupted control of the presidency until 2000) or the conservative PAN (which held the presidency from 2000 to 2012) could end up controlling the presidency, and some polls predict that Morena will win a majority of seats in the legislature as well.

However, as in past Mexican elections, various forms of fraud, vote-buying, and voter intimidation and coercion are widely expected to take place. Incidents of vote-buying and voter coercion have already been reported. In addition, the election campaign has been marred by high levels of violence, including the killing of over 130 politicians and candidates, the highest number on record for a campaign in Mexico. There are fears that violent incidents could take place during these elections.

This live blog of the elections will include updates from some of the more than 100 accredited international observers from the Scholars’ and Citizens’ Network for Democracy (RUCD, by its Spanish initials), a project of the Fray Francisco de Vitoria Human Rights Center and the Dialogues for Democracy program at Mexico’s National Autonomous University (UNAM, by its Spanish initials). These observers, who will be accompanied by Mexican counterparts from the RUCD, will be visiting hundreds of voting centers in six Mexican states, including Morelos, Puebla, Mexico State, Chiapas, Veracruz, and Tlaxcala, as well as in Mexico City.

We will also share excerpts and links from news outlets and social media tracking developments surrounding the elections. Given the abundance of false or unsubstantiated information that has circulated during the electoral season ? as Verificado 2018 and other fact-checkers have documented ? we will focus on sources that have a strong record for accurate reporting.

We at CEPR have monitored Mexican elections in the past, notably in 2006, when we conducted an independent review of information made available from 2,534 ballot boxes and found a number of problems with the ballot count. CEPR also concluded that half of the ballot boxes in that election had “adding up” errors, that is, the total number of blank ballots received at the ballot box location before the vote did not equal the total number of votes recorded (including null votes) plus the blank ballots left over. CEPR has previously live blogged several elections in Haiti, Honduras, and Venezuela.

A Brief Introduction to Mexico’s 2018 Elections

On July 1, Mexicans will go to the polls to elect candidates to over 3,400 positions, including a new president, both houses of Congress, nine governors and thousands of other local and state officials. The elections take place as Mexico struggles with a generally stagnant economy and a series of scandals that have shaken public faith not just in the current administration, but in many of Mexico’s institutions. These include reports of state security involvement in the disappearance of 43 young people studying to be teachers in Ayotzinapa, personal enrichment scandals surrounding President Enrique Peña Nieto and his family, and the legacy of a militarized war on drugs and crime begun under former president Felipe Calderon that corresponded with a period of soaring homicide numbers and thousands of disappearances. The murder rate hit a record high in 2017.

As a result of these and other factors, the popularity rating of outgoing president Enrique Peña Nieto, of the PRI party, has sunk to 23 percent, according to recent polls.

The presidential candidates are:

Andrés Manuel López Obrador (frequently known as AMLO)
“Together We Will Make History” (Juntos Haremos Historia) Coalition, made up of the National Regeneration Movement (MORENA), Labor Party (PT), and Social Encounter Party (PES).

This is López Obrador’s third time running for president, though the first with the Morena party, which started as a movement supporting his candidacy in 2012 and officially became a party in 2014. López Obrador, the former mayor of Mexico City (2000–2005), has campaigned on ending rampant corruption and focusing on boosting the domestic economy, including the agricultural sector. While there is some concern from the business community and internationally regarding what López Obrador would do about NAFTA or the 2013 energy reform, he has stated that, if elected, he would work with the US, and that he would not revoke the energy reform, though he would review existing contracts for corruption.

Ricardo Anaya 
“The Forward Front for Mexico” (“Por México Al Frente”) Coalition, made up of the right-wing National Action Party (PAN), the left-wing Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), and the left-wing Citizens’ Movement (MC).

Polling (a distant) second behind AMLO, Anaya has presented himself as a youthful (he’s 39) fresh face, promoting a vision of transitioning from manufacturing to a tech-focused economy, while curbing crime and corruption. Anaya is a former legislator who presents himself as a would-be departure from previous presidents, and he was able to secure the unusual backing of both the right-wing PAN, and the left-wing PRD and MC. Anaya nonetheless is the current PAN president, has been a party functionary for several years, and has been a member of the party for his entire political career. He has also been criticized by some within his own party for divisive actions he has taken, and has been dogged by corruption allegations of his own.

José Antonio Meade
Everyone for Mexico (“Todos por México”) coalition, made up of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), New Alliance (PANAL), and the Ecologist Green Party of Mexico (PVEM).

Although he is the candidate of the ruling PRI, Meade wasn’t a member of the party until recently. Though the PRI’s strategy appears to be an effort to run the little-known Meade as an “outsider” candidate, he is still trailing in third place. Meade may in fact be the consummate “insider-outsider”: he is a former cabinet secretary (energy, foreign relations, social development, and then finance and public credit) with degrees in law and economics from UNAM and Yale, respectively.

Jaime “El Bronco” Rodríguez
Independent candidate

This is the first year that independent candidates can run for president. Rodríguez, better known as “El Bronco,” has focused much of his campaign on that he is not affiliated with a party, the solution he says Mexico needs (although he may also be remembered for his debate response when he said he would solve corruption by cutting off thieves’ hands).

Margarita Zavala, a lawyer and politician, and the wife of former President Felipe Calderón of the PAN party, was also running as an independent candidate, before she withdrew in May (though her name still appears on the ballots, which were printed before her announcement).

The story so far:

Polls have consistently had López Obrador in the lead throughout the campaign; at this point over 20 points ahead, according to the majority of pollsters. His election would represent a historic shift for Mexico. The PRI led Mexico uninterrupted for 71 years, before PAN governments took over in 2000 and again in 2006. When Enrique Peña Nieto of the PRI took office in 2012, he signed the “Pact for Mexico,” along with the heads of the PRI, PAN, and PRD parties. This pact promised, in part, a new era of economic growth and prosperity, which did not materialize. It did, however, consolidate the idea for many of the PRI, PAN, and PRD working in alliance, which may have damaged the standing of all three parties given the unpopularity of the current PRI administration. The traditionally left-leaning PRD eventually left the Pact, though it is in coalition with the center-right PAN in the 2018 elections. If elected, López Obrador, with the Morena party and the “Together We Will Make History” coalition, would therefore represent a significant departure from Mexico’s political history thus far.

Voting Day:

Voting centers will be open from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm (or until all those in line to vote before 6 pm have voted). At 11 pm, the National Voting Institute (INE, by its Spanish initials) will release its initial projections of results based on a broad sample of centers with confirmed voting tallies. Between 8 pm on July 1 and 8 am on July 2, the results tallied in each voting center are electronically transmitted to the INE headquarters in Mexico City. In theory, the preliminary (PREP) results could be processed and made public by late evening on July 1, but past experience suggests that the results may not be publicly released until the early morning of July 2.

Welcome to our live blog of Mexico’s historic elections today. See our introductory post here.

All update times are Eastern time zone.

UPDATE 11:12 PM: FEPADE provided an updated tally on electoral complaints received throughout the day. Throughout the country there were 394 complaints at the federal level, and even more concerning local races. 19 people were arrested for federal electoral crimes. 

UPDATE 11:08 PM: And now President Donald Trump has tweeted his congratulations to president-elect Obrador. 

 

UPDATE 11:01 PM: Mitofsky has now released its Senate exit polls, which indicate a possible majority for Morena and allies with 56-70 seats. There are 128 seats in the senate. 

Mitofsky mex sen poll 

UPDATE 10:36 PM: U.S. Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chairs, Rep. Raul Grijalva and Rep. Mark Pocan, have released a statement following Obrador’s likely victory. 

CPC mexico

UPDATE 10:27 PM: Pollster Mitofsky has just released exit poll data estimating Moreno and it’s allies in “Together We Will Make History” winning between 256 and 291 seats – a majority. 
WhatsApp Image 2018 07 01 at 10.17.10 PM

UPDATE 10:12 PM: Argentina issued a statement congratulating Obrador on his election victory. Again, official results are based on only 0.32 percent of total ballots, but as Richard Ensor of The Economist points out, these early returns indicate a broad-based victory for Obrador:  

UPDATE 9:45 PM: Official results have just started being posted by INE, but the results appear irreversible. Ricardo Anaya of the PAN has also just conceded defeat to López Obrador. 

UPDATE 9:31 PM: More exit polls are giving AMLO around 50 percent of the vote. ADN has AMLO with 51 percent to Anaya’s 23 percent, with Meade again at 18 percent. The Washington Post is reporting: “Several exit polls gave Lopez Obrador a double-digit lead over his two closest competitors….”

UPDATE 9:18 PM: El Financiero is also projecting Morena with 38 percent of the vote for the chamber of deputies (the legislative lower house), the PAN with 22 percent, the PRI with 18 percent, the PRD with 6 percent, and the PT (Workers’ Party) with 4 percent.

UPDATE 9:16 PM: The ruling PRI’s presidential candidate, Jose Antonio Meade, has conceded defeat to Obrador before official results are announced. 

UPDATE 9:11 PM: El Financiero’s presidential exit poll has been released and it shows Morenas’ Obrador with 49 percent of the vote. Anaya of the PAN is in second with 29 percent, and the PRI’s Meade is in third with 18 percent, according to the poll. 

UPDATE 8:52 PM: The 5:00 pm report from Diálogos por la Democracia is now available. They say they “received and tracked and directed” 198 citizen complaints, of which 52 were for “soliciting votes for payment, promises of money, or other consideration.”

UPDATE 8:43 PM: An observer in Tlaxcala reported at 8:20 pm:

[They’re conducting the count for] President and diputado at the same time here In Tlaxcala. All mesas/casillas can decide if they are going to take additional security measures. At this casilla, they signed (have to confirm how many / who) as an extra security measure. Most we visited today were not signing. In another area of Tlaxcala they had stolen some ballots previous to the election. In addition to reprinting, they required signatures (2 mesa, 2 partidos) on every ballot. Wind in a tent is complicating working with lots of paper ballots…

Counting in Tlaxcala.

UPDATE 8:37 PM: In a series of tweets (ongoing), the #Verificado2018 project reported the confirmed cases of electoral violence and irregularities in Puebla state today. A PRI activist was killed in the municipality of Acolihuia. At the Emiliano Zapata school in Barranca Honda, 8-10 gunmen showed up at around 2 PM and fire off shots, temporarily closing the center. At a voting center in Colonia Fuentes de San Aparicio shots were fired and ballots for president and governor were stolen. Ballots were also stolen in San Sebastián by seven armed individuals. 

UPDATE 8:28 PM: An observer in Jilotepec reports:

Here in Section 2260 in Jilotepec, the counting of blank ballots is finished and now a poll worker is reading out the number of registered voters that have voted on each page of the thick voter registry for casilla contigua 3 while all of the party representatives confirm that his count matches their count, page by page. In a few places there are discrepancies which they resolve. In total, 459 of 650 registered voters deposited ballots in the urns of this casilla.

Counting at Jilotepec section 2260.

With that done, on to the tallying, starting with the ballots for the presidential election. They are all dumped on a table by the president of the casilla, and the poll workers begin to unfold each ballot. Another long process. [They’re tallying the municipal ballots and the presidential ballots at the same time.]

UPDATE 8:20 PM: At 8:06 pm, observers reported that rain did indeed begin to pour at casilla 0734 in Coyoacán, “forcing a hurried move inside an auditorium next to the casilla.”

Rain at casilla 0734 in Coyoacan.

UPDATE 8:16 PM: Exit polls being reported by El Financiero project the next governor of Jalisco will be the Citizens Movement candidate Enrique Alfaro, and in Guanajuato the “Por Guanajuato al frente” candidate Diego Sinhué. The governor’s race in Yucatán is projected to be between the PAN and Citizens Movement candidate Mauricio Vila and the PRI-Green Party candidate Mauricio Sahuí. In Veracruz, the race is projected to be down to the “Together We Will Make History” candidate Cuitláhuac García and the “Por Veracruz al frente” candidate Miguel Ángel Yunes. In Puebla, the race is projected to be between Miguel Barbosa of the “Together We Will Make History” coalition, and the candidate of the “Por Puebla al frente,” Martha Erika Alonso.

UPDATE 7:59 PM: An observer reports: “Here at casilla 0734 [in Coyoacán], they are lining up on the ground to help organize the ballots. But there is no electric light. They are trying to run a cable to a nearby store. And it is about to start raining. Lining up sheets of paper. They have a tent, but the ballots are being organized on the ground and if it rains they may get wet.”

Casilla 0734, preparing to count.

UPDATE 7:51 PM: At 7:42 pm, an observer at casilla Tlaxcala 453 reported: “They closed the gate at 6 (people in line within the fence could stay in line/vote) so people broke the fence to get in. Looks like police had it all under control, no further incident.”

Fence at casilla Tlaxcala 453

Broken fence at casilla Tlaxcala 453.

UPDATE 7:42 PM: El Financiero reports exit polls projecting candidates from the “Together We Will Make History” (Juntos Haremos Historia) Coalition (of which AMLO is the presidential candidate) winning the governors’ seats in Morelos, Tabasco, Chiapas, Puebla, and Veracruz  [between two candidates in each] as well as Mexico City.

UPDATE 7:34 PM: More updates are coming in from the network of observers that have been out across the country today: “District 30 in Estado de México: no serious irregularities to report all along our route today, from Valle de Bravo to Tejupilco and back, 9 polling stations and about 30 casillas. High participation, roughly 70%, and calm atmosphere everywhere …Lots of dedicated citizens doing their best to make these elections happen in a peaceful and orderly manner. Polls just about to close back here in Valle de Bravo and the initial counting process will soon begin under a tent in a playground protecting us from heavy rain. Here there are four casillas bunched together in one small space but somehow it has worked.”

UPDATE 7:31 PM: An observer reports on the closing of polls in a different center in Jilotepec. “Here in casilla contigua 3 of section 2260 in Jilotepec they’ve just brought the five ballot boxes from outside into a classroom where the poll workers are setting things up and the party reps, two per party here, are sitting behind desks and waiting. There was a little drama a short while ago when two elderly women came to vote just as the president of the casilla declared the casilla closed. The late-comers were not allowed to vote. A younger woman was irate as she said that the women had arrived at the center several minutes before 6 and had had trouble identifying the casilla where they could vote.”

And, another update a few minutes later which adds more detail on the process at the close of the day: “The poll workers are now counting the blank ballots. Afterwards, the total of blank ballots and filled in ballots will be calculated with the expectation that it will match the total of blank ballots that the casilla was given. Once the blank ballots are counted the president of the casilla draws two lines through each blank ballot, making them null and void. Though the president is marking the ballots quickly it’s a slow process given that there five sets of at least a hundred blank ballots.”
WhatsApp Image 2018 07 01 at 7.27.38 PM

UPDATE 7:12: As a long election day comes to a close, a long night of counting begins. An observer reports: “We are now in the closing of a polling station in Jilotepec. In accordance with Mexican law, they have asked all but one representative of each party to leave. One person from each party will stay behind for the opening of the ballot boxes and the initial organization and counting of the ballots. Here in the Estado de México, there are five races, so five separate ballots, which all need to be opened and organized. This is just the first step in a long process of getting this count started.”

UPDATE 7:10 PM: Bloomberg’s and El Financiero are beginning to release exit poll data. Eric Martin writes for the Bloomberg live-blog

We’re starting to get our first exit polls in, and El Financiero is projecting that Claudia Sheinbaum, the Morena candidate, will be the next mayor of Mexico City.

Sheinbaum’s win was widely expected, as she has been leading polls. Sheinbaum, a 55-year-old scientist, previously served as head of the Tlalpan neighborhood in southern Mexico City. Candidates from the left or left-led coalitions have controlled the mayor’s office in the capital since the 1990s.

Martin notes that governor races in Pueblo and Veracruz are “too close to call.” 

UPDATE 7:06 PM: Update from an observer at 6:03 PM local time: “Casillas 0734 & 0732 in Coyoacán, all quiet. High turnout. 80% & 76.5%. At 6 PM noone was in line. The president declared the casilla closed. everyone applauded and some shouted ‘para democracia.'”

UPDATE 7:03 PM: As polling centers begin to close, INE has begun counting votes from Mexicans abroad. Journalist Jorge Ramos noted earlier that it was “shameful and a failure” that only 98,000 sent votes from abroad when there are more than 12 million Mexicans living outside the country. In a tweet, Ramos wrote: “It seems that the system is made so that we do not participate.”

UPDATE 6:58 PM: The #Verificado2018 project provides an update on reported violent conflicts impacting the vote in Veracruz. According to the local electoral office, casilla 0955 en Coatzintla was forced to close twice due to violence, but voting has continued. In Coatzacoalcos a shootout occured, but not, as had been reported, near a voting center. 

UPDATE 6:46 PM: INE member Ciro Murayama notes that due to high levels of participation many voting centers may not be able to close at 6 PM (local time), which may delay the release of preliminary results (expected to begin around 8 PM). Meanwhile, Leonel Fernandez, the head of the OAS electoral observation mission has issued a statement noting that the election has so far transpired without major incidents, and has seen “massive participation.” 

UPDATE 6:30 PM: There are images posted on Twitter, and media reports, of men burning ballots at casilla 0381 in the Escuela Primaria José María Morelos y Pavón in Chilcota, Michoacán.

UPDATE 6:24 PM: @Andalalucha has been Tweeting about the numbers of people waiting to vote at casillas especiales:

Polling places close at 6:00 pm local time.

UPDATE 6:15 PM: T.M. Scruggs, an observer with the Scholars’ and Citizens’ Network for Democracy, reports:

All 9 casillas visited today in 4 towns and cities in the SW part of Mexico State have proceeded with tranquillity and appear organized and well run. No waiting longer than 20 minutes observed except at the Casilla Especial in Ixtapan de la Sal where the wait was at least an hour for the non-local residents.

The generalized late opening of voting booths appears to be related to the complexity of five ballots due the five levels of voting, from federal to municipal level. Even where the materials arrived on time the poll workers needed to arrive earlier than last year’s comparatively less complicated one. In SW Mexico State for example the ten casillas we have observed started setting up at 7:30 am when they really needed to begin at 7 am, the hour designated as such by the INE. All these casillas opened between 8:30 and 9:30 am [correction: 9:00 am] with exception of one that opened just after 9:30 am.

UPDATE 5:49 PM: MVS Noticias reports that observers from Central America are concerned by the lack of sufficient ballots at the casillas especiales, and plan to report to the INE about it.

El Economista also reports on the “chaos” in special polling places, where people have been waiting several hours to vote.

UPDATE 5:33 PM: An update on casilla Alvaro Obregón 3458 from a different observer: “When we arrived, dozens were milling outside, one woman in particular appeared to be floor manager, on the phone she openly talked about running electoral operation, when I approached she subsequently ducked into house in front of casilla, we approached INE official, claimed not to be aware; subsequently he came out and publicly admitted the PRD was fighting tooth and nail for this casilla, we have audio; after our complaint the area cleared out!”

PRD house across the street from casilla Alvaro Obregón 3458.
PRD house across the street from casilla Alvaro Obregón 3458.

UPDATE 5:19 PM: In Iztapalapa, some 583 ballots were stolen, according to the head of government in Mexico City, José Ramón Amieva (see 2:41 pm update, below). He added that there was no process for the replacement of ballots and so those individuals at Casille 2567 in Ampliación Santiago, will not be able to vote. Arnieva also noted the late opening at various polling centers this morning. 

UPDATE 5:09 PM: FEPADE provides updated figures on electoral complaints. By 2 PM local time, there had been 1,106 denunciations of possible electoral crimes across the country, 640 at the community level and 466 at the federal level. The states with the highest number of complaints are Pueblo (127), CDMX (51), Mexico State (46), Chiapas (38), Oaxaca (27) and Veracruz (25). Seventeen individuals have been detained.  

UPDATE 5:02 PM: Aristegui Noticias reports that a Labor Party activist, Flora Reséndiz González, was killed today when leaving her home in the community of Contepec in Michoacán state. In another report, the Michoacán electoral institute confirmed to Aristegui Noticias that it had cancelled elections in the indigenous community of Nahuatzen and has had to close some voting centers in other communities in the region following electoral violence and other irregularities. 

UPDATE 4:53 PM: More from an observer at casilla 3458 Álvaro Obregón, CDMX: “The Morena representative told us and the INE representative that he had filed a complaint with FEPADE about the obvious vote buying by what he said was the PRD.” The observer noted that the house the PRD is operating from is located across the street from the voting center.

Since Thursday FEPADE, the electoral crimes authority, has received 534 complaints according to the agencies director, Héctor Días Santana. 460 of the complaints came before election day, while 74 were recorded by noon today. 

UPDATE 4:30 PM: An observer reported at 3:17 pm ET: “250/534 have voted in Tchiautempan, Tlaxcala (section 133). Busy, tranquilo, organized. Things have been pretty calm in Tlaxcala (besides the 1 chaotic one we saw with halcones).”

Journalist James Fredrick reported that voters were waiting more than six hours to vote at the Hospital General, Del. Cuauhtemoc due to insufficient ballots:

Another observer reports: “At casilla 3458 Álvaro Obregón, CDMX, we spoke with a woman who made an accusation to us that as soon as we appeared a group scattered that had been checking people’s names and looking at their phones. The INE representative on site and the president of the casilla said they hadn’t seen anything irregular. A bit more than 50 percent have voted here.”

UPDATE 4:16 PM: An observer reports: “In the rural areas around Jilotepec, things have been busy, but calm. There haven’t been many irregularities, but in Soyaniquilpan, Morena representatives had reported to the INE officials excessive use of cell phones inside the polling station by members of other parties – this can be a way of organizing the illegal coercion of voters. Outside that polling place, we saw others, on their phones, with lists of voters. This indicates to us that the party in question – in this case, the PRI – is organizing the mobilization of voters in ways that violate the electoral laws.”

Another observer updates us from elsewhere in Jilotepec: “At 2:50 pm, 58 percent of registered voters had voted in the rural voting center of section 2296 in Doxhicho, Jilotepec, EDOMEX. Everywhere I’ve been poll workers are commenting on the unusually high level of voter participation so far in these elections. And I’ve encountered no major incidents in the seven voting centers I’ve visited in the municipality of Jilotepec.”

UPDATE 4:09 PM: The NGO Democracia sin Pobreza is mapping reports of vote-buying, including locations where the reports have been validated with photographic or video evidence.

The RUCD has posted its first formal report (only in Spanish, for now) here.

Jan-Albert Hootsen of the Committee to Protect Journalists Tweeted: “In Parral (Chihuahua State, northern Mexico), a journalist was reportedly beat up as he was reporting at a voting booth,” and “Media in Veracruz report that a voting station was temporarily closed due to the appearance of a group of unidentified armed individuals. The booth is now open again.”

UPDATE: 3:54 PM: More reports of problems in Ecatepec. @Andalalucha posted a video on Twitter of voters, who reportedly have waited over four hours, demanding more ballots so that they can vote. And the RUCD observation group that includes John Ackerman says: “In Ecatepec, State of Mexico our observation group was threatened by an aggressive individual over our effort to prevent fraud. We also spoke to several residents who said they were offered goods and money in exchange for their vote and a report of someone trying to vote twice.”

UPDATE 3:10 PM: Reports of ballot shortages are coming in from various “casillas especiales,” for voters outside of their regular precincts. Each casilla especial has only 750 ballots, but in some locations, many more than that are turning out to vote. Journalist Martha Pskowski Tweeted around 2:00 pm ET:

An observer reported at 1:00 pm: “In Oxtotitlán, Mexico State, obvious alcohol consumption in the small plaza where the voting area is located. Also multiple small stores selling beer and other drinks.” Mexican states have a “dry law” prohibiting alcohol sales for at least 24 hours around election day.

UPDATE 2:59 PM: Journalist Arturo Cano reports that Morena has denounced vote-buying by the PRD at casilla 1699 en el Barrio Los Reyes, Iztacalco, Mexico City:

UPDATE 2:49 PM: International media, as well as numerous electoral observers, are reporting long lines at polling stations in Mexico City and various locations in Mexico State, and elsewhere:

Meanwhile, rumors of “erased” ballot marks have been a concern today. Dialogos por la Democracia tells voters that they can indeed use their own pen to mark their ballot:


UPDATE: 2:41 PM: The #Verificado2018 project reports that a casilla president in Iztapalapa (a Mexico City borough) says armed gunmen stole ballots from him. And it reports that Instituto Electoral de Michoacán (IEM) electoral officials have confirmed the armed theft of ballots, but say they do not know how many have been stolen.

UPDATE 2:06 PM: An observer reports: “At Jilotepec, section 2260, casilla contigua 1, around 160 people had voted at 12:19 pm.”

Another observer in Coyoacán reports: “Casilla 0354: one basic and 6 contiguous, 4565 voters, full, we managed to get pollsters out of the polling place.”

Casilla 0354, Coyoacán

UPDATE 1:58 PM: At 1:22 pm, an observer reported: “Casilla 0481, Coyoacán. Only evident issue is small size of the local which delays vote.”

Casilla 0481, Coyoacan

UPDATE 1:54 PM: Observers have consistently reported long lines at “special” voting centers, set up to allow people traveling outside their home district to vote. Ciro Murayama, an INE electoral counselor, tweeted that each of these centers has only 750 ballots as stipulated in the electoral law and that many would not be able to vote. Christy Thornton tweeted that at one such voting center in Jilotepec she counted around 200 people in line to vote.

UPDATE 1:47 PM: Duncan Tucker, regional media manager for Amnesty International tweets: 

UPDATE 1:20 PM: INE president Lorenzo Córdova recently made a statement, declaring the electoral process was occurring in a situation of calm and without major incidents. He said that, of the 156,807 casillas, only 4 were not installed. Observers, however, have reported that a large number of casillas did not open on time.

UPDATE 1:14 PM: An observer reports: “A somewhat chaotic voting center in San Isidro Buensuceso (neighborhood), San Pablo del Monte (municipio), sección 363, Tlaxcala. Casillas are close together. We saw a ‘halcón’ ? a boy up on the balcony to watch the votes happening below [which is illegal]. People watching/monitoring voters (no lists). No security. The INE told us that the municipal government refused to provide security or lunch, citing the veda electoral [the pre-election day period in which campaigning and politicking is banned, as is dissemination of government messages].”

Casilla at San Isidro Buensuceso

UPDATE 1:03 PM: More reports are coming in of how widespread the late opening of polling places has been today. A observer tells us, “Here in Districto 1 of Jilotepec, only 11 of 116 casillas were open at 9:20 am.” José Roberto Ruiz, an electoral advisor to the INE, Tweeted earlier today:

UPDATE 12:54 PM: Journalist Jeff Abbott Tweeted to us:

UPDATE 12:49 PM: An RUCD brigade that includes Father Miguel Concha, director of the Vitoria Center; Laura Carlsen, director of the Americas Program at the Center for International Policy; Father Alejandro Solalinde; and law professor John Ackerman of the Instituto de Investigaciones Juridicas at UNAM is beginning their voting observations in Ecatepec, Mexico State, where they will visit 11 casillas. They recorded this message earlier (and are planning to livestream here).

Also in Ecatepec, an observer reports: “A lot of problems in Ecatepec. We already saw two ‘casas amigas’, intimidations, etc.” Latin American studies professor Christy Thornton, who is also observing the elections today, has previously described a casa amiga as a place “where [party] operatives coordinate various kinds of voter coercion, from outright buying of votes to incentivizing individuals to bring five or ten others with them to the polls.”

UPDATE 12:45 PM: Local media have reported that a 45 year old woman was shot and killed while she waited to vote this morning in Cárdenas, Tabasco. 

UPDATE 12:42 PM: Christy Thornton points out that false information has been circulating for months on social networks and today is no different; it is “meant to confuse and intimidate voters.” A message has been circulating on WhatsApp today purporting to come from the president of a voting center saying the markers used are being erased. The message is false. 

UPDATE 12:00 PM: At 11:45 AM, an election observer reported: “At casilla 0740 [in Coyoacán], two young women without INE accreditation were polling voters. But when we asked the president [of the casilla], he asked the police officer to investigate, and they produced this document.”

INE accreditation document?

UPDATE 11:21 AM: The Scholar and Citizen Network for Democracy tweets:

UPDATE 11:13 AM: Electoral officials are pushing back against criticism that the election is disorganized, manifest in the late opening of so many polling places. INE spokespersons are saying that everyone in line before polling places close will be able to vote.

UPDATE 11:01 AM: Here is the ballot that voters will use today to mark their choice for president. (courtesy of @Andalalucha). 

Mex pre ballot

UPDATE 10:56 AM: The New York Timesreports on the impact of electoral violence on local races, especially in more rural areas:

In the long run-up to the vote, much of the national and international focus has been on the presidential contest. Yet for the millions of people living in the most violent parts of the country, elections for local office may have the biggest impact on their daily lives.

And organized crime groups have all but decided many of those outcomes already.

“No one has been more active during these campaigns” than these criminal groups, said Alejandro Martínez, a top official for the center-right National Action Party in Guerrero, one of the poorest and most violent states in Mexico.

Scores, if not hundreds, have abandoned their candidacies out of fear for their lives. Some parties have not been able to field nominees willing to contest certain posts.

Some candidates have been forced to travel in armored cars flanked by bodyguards and to wear body armor in public. In parts of the most violent states, threats have made campaigning impossible.

“You have to be a little crazy to run for office here,” Mr. Martínez said.

Collusion between politicians and criminal organizations in Mexico is not new. But over the past decade, criminals have increasingly sought to co-opt local politics by trying to influence the electoral process, using violence to effectively handpick slates of candidates.

UPDATE 10:51 AM: The permanent session of the INE, where electoral counselors and political party representatives are present, can be viewed live here. Lorenzo Cordova, president of the INE, stated that there is “no room for fraud” in the elections. Political party representatives don’t seem to agree, however.

UPDATE 10:45 AM: Diálogos por la Democracia at UNAM is urging people to report voting irregularities or fraud that they witness today:

Diálogos por la Democracia flyer urging reporting of voting fraud and irregularities.

UPDATE 10:35 AM: An observer reported, at 10:26, a long line of 100 waiting in Ixtapan de la Sal to vote in a Casilla Especial. “These Special Precincts allow for casting the US equivalent of provisional ballots. These are used for people who are outside of their voting precincts, in this case many are visiting from nearby Mexico City. There are only 750 ballots in total, which at the current rate will last only until around noon.”

Long line of voters at Ixtapan de la Sal casilla especial

UPDATE 10:29 AM: Aristegui Noticias reports on electoral violence and attempted vote buying in Chiapas. In Mapastepec, two individuals were detained with envelopes of pesos and lists of intended recipients. In Venustiano Carranza a group of armed people reportedly attempted to steal electoral materials. And the Network of Electoral Observers of Chiapas denounced the intensification of attempts by party and government officials to coerce voters over the last few days, including though conditioning federal and state programs on how individuals voted. Full article here.

UPDATE 10:25 AM: At 9:20, journalist Martha Pskowski Tweeted:

 She reported at 10:20: “It’s open! Over 200 people were in line by the time it opened.”

UPDATE 10:20 AM: Observers reported voting finally started to begin 53 minutes late at Ixtapan de la Sal, and Coyoacán 0729 (Mexico City), respectively:

First votes at Ixtapana de la Sal

Ixtapan de la Sal: 8:53, first votes cast. Indelible ink applied to finger to prevent “Chicago style” multiple voting.

Voters enter Coyoacan 0729

8:53 am: voters entering Coyoacan 0729, election here underway.

UPDATE 10:09 AM: At 9:50 ET, an observer reported: “Voters losing patience with election officials who have not yet opened the polls here in Jilotepec. Some of the polling places are missing the officials who will tally the votes, and they cannot open without them.”

Voters losing patience at Jilotepec

UPDATE 10:04 AM:

There’s a report of more than 15 people in a casilla in Ecatepec, going over the electors list, listening and observing to check who is voting. They are reportedly not all accredited as party or INE representatives, so this is illegal.

UPDATE 9:55 AM: Reports are coming in from various areas of polling stations opening late. In many districts across the Estado de México (Mexico State), polls were still being set up at 8:30, a half hour after they are supposed to open. Party representatives were still being accredited and ballot boxes assembled, while voters began to assemble and ask the electoral officials when they can vote. In Ixtapan de la Sal (in Mexico State, just outside Mexico City) the lista was being reviewed and blank ballots counted, and voting still had not started at 8:45am.

At 8:45, Coyoacán 377 in Mexico City was just starting to open. Voters are protesting the late start at Coyoacan 729. In Coyoacán 0377, CDMX, similarly. the polls still had not opened by 8:30 am. None of the parties have representation because the list given to the presidenta was out of date, and the party representatives did not appear on the list, so they will need to get an updated list from the INE (electoral authority), but that means the poll will not be watched for several hours, at least.

Caja awaiting ballots, Coyoacan.

Caja awaiting ballots, Coyoacán

UPDATE 9:43 AM:La Jornada reports on violence impacting the electoral process in Michoacan state. Three were killed on Friday night in a conflict between PRI and PRD activists. Also, the INE has opted to not set up 12 ballot boxes in Nahuatzen after some 3,000 ballots were burned. Reuters has more on the specifics of the conflict in Nahuatzen, where indigenous communities have rejected the electoral process:

Nahuatzen is part of a growing movement among Mexico’s indigenous communities, who are seeking self-rule and turning their backs on mainstream elections. Dissent in Michoacan ignited seven years ago, ahead of the 2012 presidential election, when just one jurisdiction, the municipality of Cheran, opted out of voting.

This year, the boycott spread to six additional municipalities affecting dozens of polling stations across the 16 towns, home to at least 50,000 voters.

UPDATE 9:29 AM: Photos of preparation for the vote. Here, journalists in Mexico City await AMLO’s arrival to cast his vote.

Journalists await AMLO's arrival

Setting up the casilla in Tlaxcala:

Setting up casilla in Tlaxcala

Line for a casilla in the Coyoacán district of Mexico City:

Line for casilla in the Coyoacán district.

UPDATE 9:10 AM: Polls are meant to open at 8am local time and observers have reported lines forming outside many voting centers. And so begins a historic election day throughout Mexico. Exit polls are expected around 8pm with official results coming hours later. 

UPDATE 8:30 AM: La Jornada reports this morning that four PRD activists were killed and four more were wounded yesterday in the State of Mexico after discovering activists affiliated with the PRI handing out food to potential voters. 

UPDATE 8:15 AM: Already, at 6am, the RUCD team in Jardines de Morelos, Ecatepec, reports that they arrived to find no microbus service running. They went to the base for the buses, and for more than 50 busses assembled. A team member asked a driver there, and she was told there was no service because all were going “to the INE” – the electoral authority. As these busses have no reason to go to the offices of the electoral authority, it was clear that the driver meant they were assembled to transport voters. This is an illegal but quite common process called ‘acarreo,’ where parties arrange to bring voters to the polls in groups – a violation of electoral law.


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Welcome to our live blog on Mexico’s 2018 national elections. Throughout the day, we will be bringing you on-the-ground reports from international observers deployed in different parts of the country, as well as sharing updates from Mexican and international media outlets, and from social media sources with a record for reliable and accurate information. This blog will be updated frequently during and immediately following the July 1 elections, so be sure to check back regularly.

On July 1, Mexicans voters will be electing federal, state, and local officials to over 3,400 positions, including a new president, legislators in both houses of Congress, and thousands of local and state officials. The most recent polls suggest that outsider candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador ? of the left-of-center Morena party ? will likely win the presidential election by a wide margin. For the first time in nearly 90 years, a political party other than the centrist PRI (which had uninterrupted control of the presidency until 2000) or the conservative PAN (which held the presidency from 2000 to 2012) could end up controlling the presidency, and some polls predict that Morena will win a majority of seats in the legislature as well.

However, as in past Mexican elections, various forms of fraud, vote-buying, and voter intimidation and coercion are widely expected to take place. Incidents of vote-buying and voter coercion have already been reported. In addition, the election campaign has been marred by high levels of violence, including the killing of over 130 politicians and candidates, the highest number on record for a campaign in Mexico. There are fears that violent incidents could take place during these elections.

This live blog of the elections will include updates from some of the more than 100 accredited international observers from the Scholars’ and Citizens’ Network for Democracy (RUCD, by its Spanish initials), a project of the Fray Francisco de Vitoria Human Rights Center and the Dialogues for Democracy program at Mexico’s National Autonomous University (UNAM, by its Spanish initials). These observers, who will be accompanied by Mexican counterparts from the RUCD, will be visiting hundreds of voting centers in six Mexican states, including Morelos, Puebla, Mexico State, Chiapas, Veracruz, and Tlaxcala, as well as in Mexico City.

We will also share excerpts and links from news outlets and social media tracking developments surrounding the elections. Given the abundance of false or unsubstantiated information that has circulated during the electoral season ? as Verificado 2018 and other fact-checkers have documented ? we will focus on sources that have a strong record for accurate reporting.

We at CEPR have monitored Mexican elections in the past, notably in 2006, when we conducted an independent review of information made available from 2,534 ballot boxes and found a number of problems with the ballot count. CEPR also concluded that half of the ballot boxes in that election had “adding up” errors, that is, the total number of blank ballots received at the ballot box location before the vote did not equal the total number of votes recorded (including null votes) plus the blank ballots left over. CEPR has previously live blogged several elections in Haiti, Honduras, and Venezuela.

A Brief Introduction to Mexico’s 2018 Elections

On July 1, Mexicans will go to the polls to elect candidates to over 3,400 positions, including a new president, both houses of Congress, nine governors and thousands of other local and state officials. The elections take place as Mexico struggles with a generally stagnant economy and a series of scandals that have shaken public faith not just in the current administration, but in many of Mexico’s institutions. These include reports of state security involvement in the disappearance of 43 young people studying to be teachers in Ayotzinapa, personal enrichment scandals surrounding President Enrique Peña Nieto and his family, and the legacy of a militarized war on drugs and crime begun under former president Felipe Calderon that corresponded with a period of soaring homicide numbers and thousands of disappearances. The murder rate hit a record high in 2017.

As a result of these and other factors, the popularity rating of outgoing president Enrique Peña Nieto, of the PRI party, has sunk to 23 percent, according to recent polls.

The presidential candidates are:

Andrés Manuel López Obrador (frequently known as AMLO)
“Together We Will Make History” (Juntos Haremos Historia) Coalition, made up of the National Regeneration Movement (MORENA), Labor Party (PT), and Social Encounter Party (PES).

This is López Obrador’s third time running for president, though the first with the Morena party, which started as a movement supporting his candidacy in 2012 and officially became a party in 2014. López Obrador, the former mayor of Mexico City (2000–2005), has campaigned on ending rampant corruption and focusing on boosting the domestic economy, including the agricultural sector. While there is some concern from the business community and internationally regarding what López Obrador would do about NAFTA or the 2013 energy reform, he has stated that, if elected, he would work with the US, and that he would not revoke the energy reform, though he would review existing contracts for corruption.

Ricardo Anaya 
“The Forward Front for Mexico” (“Por México Al Frente”) Coalition, made up of the right-wing National Action Party (PAN), the left-wing Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), and the left-wing Citizens’ Movement (MC).

Polling (a distant) second behind AMLO, Anaya has presented himself as a youthful (he’s 39) fresh face, promoting a vision of transitioning from manufacturing to a tech-focused economy, while curbing crime and corruption. Anaya is a former legislator who presents himself as a would-be departure from previous presidents, and he was able to secure the unusual backing of both the right-wing PAN, and the left-wing PRD and MC. Anaya nonetheless is the current PAN president, has been a party functionary for several years, and has been a member of the party for his entire political career. He has also been criticized by some within his own party for divisive actions he has taken, and has been dogged by corruption allegations of his own.

José Antonio Meade
Everyone for Mexico (“Todos por México”) coalition, made up of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), New Alliance (PANAL), and the Ecologist Green Party of Mexico (PVEM).

Although he is the candidate of the ruling PRI, Meade wasn’t a member of the party until recently. Though the PRI’s strategy appears to be an effort to run the little-known Meade as an “outsider” candidate, he is still trailing in third place. Meade may in fact be the consummate “insider-outsider”: he is a former cabinet secretary (energy, foreign relations, social development, and then finance and public credit) with degrees in law and economics from UNAM and Yale, respectively.

Jaime “El Bronco” Rodríguez
Independent candidate

This is the first year that independent candidates can run for president. Rodríguez, better known as “El Bronco,” has focused much of his campaign on that he is not affiliated with a party, the solution he says Mexico needs (although he may also be remembered for his debate response when he said he would solve corruption by cutting off thieves’ hands).

Margarita Zavala, a lawyer and politician, and the wife of former President Felipe Calderón of the PAN party, was also running as an independent candidate, before she withdrew in May (though her name still appears on the ballots, which were printed before her announcement).

The story so far:

Polls have consistently had López Obrador in the lead throughout the campaign; at this point over 20 points ahead, according to the majority of pollsters. His election would represent a historic shift for Mexico. The PRI led Mexico uninterrupted for 71 years, before PAN governments took over in 2000 and again in 2006. When Enrique Peña Nieto of the PRI took office in 2012, he signed the “Pact for Mexico,” along with the heads of the PRI, PAN, and PRD parties. This pact promised, in part, a new era of economic growth and prosperity, which did not materialize. It did, however, consolidate the idea for many of the PRI, PAN, and PRD working in alliance, which may have damaged the standing of all three parties given the unpopularity of the current PRI administration. The traditionally left-leaning PRD eventually left the Pact, though it is in coalition with the center-right PAN in the 2018 elections. If elected, López Obrador, with the Morena party and the “Together We Will Make History” coalition, would therefore represent a significant departure from Mexico’s political history thus far.

Voting Day:

Voting centers will be open from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm (or until all those in line to vote before 6 pm have voted). At 11 pm, the National Voting Institute (INE, by its Spanish initials) will release its initial projections of results based on a broad sample of centers with confirmed voting tallies. Between 8 pm on July 1 and 8 am on July 2, the results tallied in each voting center are electronically transmitted to the INE headquarters in Mexico City. In theory, the preliminary (PREP) results could be processed and made public by late evening on July 1, but past experience suggests that the results may not be publicly released until the early morning of July 2.

In 1991, Argentina fixed its peso to the US dollar, but the increasing value of the dollar led to a deep recession beginning in mid-1998, and default on dollar-denominated debt in December 2001. The currency board devalued the peso by 29 percent in January 2002, before the peso fell further over the year as the peg was abandoned completely.

The year 2001 also represented a low point in Argentina’s commodity prices. From 2001 to 2011, prices rose 187 percent — much faster than import prices generally, which rose 42 percent over the same period. This was the largest relative increase in commodity prices since 1933, shortly after Argentina abandoned the gold standard.

This has led some observers to attribute Argentina’s rapid economic growth after coming out of recession to a commodity boom, but an increase in commodity prices can cut both ways, increasing the price of purchases as well as sales. Indeed, there was considerable improvement in the terms of trade over 2001–2011, and the price of gross domestic product (GDP) relative to that of domestic demand (domestic consumption and investment) grew only about 7.5 percent. This suggests that the impact on real output was modest — perhaps less than 3 percent over the decade.

In a recent paper, Thomas Drechsel and Silvana Tenreyro study the economic effects of commodity price shocks. In part, they apply a vector autoregression (VAR) statistical model to data from Argentina going back to 1900. In brief, they find that an economy-wide shock[1] that immediately raises commodity prices by 9–11 percent temporarily increases real per-capita GDP 0.6–2.3 percentage points by the following year. They find through this approach no evidence that such a shock has any long-run effect.

Though real commodity prices doubled between 2001 and 2011, Drechsel and Tenreyro’s VAR model suggests that for most of the decade commodity-price shocks do not contribute meaningfully to the evolution of commodity prices over the decade. Figure 1 below shows historical real commodity prices (dark blue) along with simulated results having removed the exogenous price shocks after 2001 (light bands span 80, 90, and 95 percent of simulations). Only after 2010 did exogenous price shocks drive prices above the expected range.

rosnick commodities boom 2018 05 fig 1

Consequently, the accumulated price shocks after 2001 only increased GDP 4 percent by 2012 — raising the annualized rate of per-capita growth over 11 years from 2.8 percent to 3.2 percent. Though it may be that commodity-price shocks contributed to growth in Argentina, we see little evidence that it drove the rapid economic growth of the 2000s. This is seen in Figure 2.

rosnick commodities boom 2018 05 fig 2

Finally, we may repeat the above analysis using our measure of trade windfalls — the price of GDP relative to that of domestic demand — in lieu of real commodity prices. As Figure 3 shows, the additional purchasing power that was made available through changes in trade prices had no observable effect on GDP.

rosnick commodities boom 2018 05 fig 3

[1] Unexpected movements in commodity prices are correlated with unexpected movements in other macroeconomic variables in the model. Drechsel and Tenreyro assume that such movements in commodity prices may have contemporaneous effects on other variables, yet other variables have no contemporaneous impact on commodity prices. The other variables are likewise ordered so that an exogenous “GDP shock” may contemporaneously move consumption, investment, and the balance of trade, but only such a price shock may so move commodity prices. Our counterfactual simulations involve removing the price shocks that affect all endogenous variables, leaving in place those shocks that by assumption do not contemporaneously affect commodity prices.

In 1991, Argentina fixed its peso to the US dollar, but the increasing value of the dollar led to a deep recession beginning in mid-1998, and default on dollar-denominated debt in December 2001. The currency board devalued the peso by 29 percent in January 2002, before the peso fell further over the year as the peg was abandoned completely.

The year 2001 also represented a low point in Argentina’s commodity prices. From 2001 to 2011, prices rose 187 percent — much faster than import prices generally, which rose 42 percent over the same period. This was the largest relative increase in commodity prices since 1933, shortly after Argentina abandoned the gold standard.

This has led some observers to attribute Argentina’s rapid economic growth after coming out of recession to a commodity boom, but an increase in commodity prices can cut both ways, increasing the price of purchases as well as sales. Indeed, there was considerable improvement in the terms of trade over 2001–2011, and the price of gross domestic product (GDP) relative to that of domestic demand (domestic consumption and investment) grew only about 7.5 percent. This suggests that the impact on real output was modest — perhaps less than 3 percent over the decade.

In a recent paper, Thomas Drechsel and Silvana Tenreyro study the economic effects of commodity price shocks. In part, they apply a vector autoregression (VAR) statistical model to data from Argentina going back to 1900. In brief, they find that an economy-wide shock[1] that immediately raises commodity prices by 9–11 percent temporarily increases real per-capita GDP 0.6–2.3 percentage points by the following year. They find through this approach no evidence that such a shock has any long-run effect.

Though real commodity prices doubled between 2001 and 2011, Drechsel and Tenreyro’s VAR model suggests that for most of the decade commodity-price shocks do not contribute meaningfully to the evolution of commodity prices over the decade. Figure 1 below shows historical real commodity prices (dark blue) along with simulated results having removed the exogenous price shocks after 2001 (light bands span 80, 90, and 95 percent of simulations). Only after 2010 did exogenous price shocks drive prices above the expected range.

rosnick commodities boom 2018 05 fig 1

Consequently, the accumulated price shocks after 2001 only increased GDP 4 percent by 2012 — raising the annualized rate of per-capita growth over 11 years from 2.8 percent to 3.2 percent. Though it may be that commodity-price shocks contributed to growth in Argentina, we see little evidence that it drove the rapid economic growth of the 2000s. This is seen in Figure 2.

rosnick commodities boom 2018 05 fig 2

Finally, we may repeat the above analysis using our measure of trade windfalls — the price of GDP relative to that of domestic demand — in lieu of real commodity prices. As Figure 3 shows, the additional purchasing power that was made available through changes in trade prices had no observable effect on GDP.

rosnick commodities boom 2018 05 fig 3

[1] Unexpected movements in commodity prices are correlated with unexpected movements in other macroeconomic variables in the model. Drechsel and Tenreyro assume that such movements in commodity prices may have contemporaneous effects on other variables, yet other variables have no contemporaneous impact on commodity prices. The other variables are likewise ordered so that an exogenous “GDP shock” may contemporaneously move consumption, investment, and the balance of trade, but only such a price shock may so move commodity prices. Our counterfactual simulations involve removing the price shocks that affect all endogenous variables, leaving in place those shocks that by assumption do not contemporaneously affect commodity prices.

Months after Hurricane Maria the lights are still not back on for all Puerto Ricans. The extensive damage caused by the storm, along with the slow pace of restoring electricity have highlighted the struggles of Puerto Rico’s Electric Power Authority (PREPA). Prior to the storm, PREPA was already dealing with old and failing infrastructure, and a debt burden of about $9 billion dollars. When the storm hit, the embattled utility was not prepared to respond to the damage.  

The Fiscal Plan released by Puerto Rico’s government does not question whether privatizing PREPA is needed, but rather presents it as the only viable option. The plan claims that by privatizing the utility, it will “transform” it into an efficient, reliable, and cost-effective energy provider. The proposed privatization process consists of a mix between selling assets, and offering concessions to private companies to run operations.

However, privatization is no panacea for fixing public utilities, and Puerto Rico’s past experience should ring alarm bells. Two failed attempts at privatizing water services resulted in the government having to retake control of the utility in even worse shape. The disastrous results of Puerto Rico Aqueducts and Sewers Authority (PRASA) contracting with private companies to manage its operations are detailed in this report by Puerto Rico’s Comptroller’s Office.

In the 90s, Puerto Rico’s water services were struggling with quality issues, as well as with their finances. As a response to PRASA’s operational issues, then Governor Pedro Rosselló (the current governor’s father) created a commission to negotiate and oversee the privatization of water services. The first contract to oversee and manage water services in Puerto Rico was entered into in 1995 with a subsidiary of the French multinational Veolia.

However, after Veolia took over, things only got worse. Service quality worsened and prices for consumers increased, along with the agency’s operational deficit. To make matters worse, Veolia was not complying with environmental regulations, prompting fines and sanctions from the US Environmental Protection Agency. PRASA was ill-equipped to oversee and enforce its contract with Veolia and for years complied with the increased payments requested by Veolia, despite the lack of tangible improvements.

The contract with Veolia ended in 2001 and was not renewed. Instead Puerto Rico sought a different private contractor to take over operations. This time, Puerto Rican officials claimed they had a “top-notch Evaluation Committee” that selected an operator that would “bring current operations to world-class standards.” PRASA entered into a 10-year, $4 billion contract with Ondeo, a subsidiary of French multinational Suez, that “this time” included clauses to assure compliance with its stated goals, while also promising to bring huge savings for the government.

Less than two years later, after numerous disputes and disagreements with Ondeo, which repeatedly requested more money than the initial agreement from PRASA, while also failing to update the system’s infrastructure, PRASA paid the company a settlement to rescind the contract. After the termination of the second contract, public management of water services was resumed.  

Somehow, this disastrous experience seems to have been quickly forgotten by the ardent proponents of privatization. When PREPA was slow to respond to the damage caused by the hurricane, privatization was aggressively pushed as the only solution to effectively rebuild the power grid. Furthermore, Puerto Rico’s plan for PREPA criticizes the agency in charge of regulating the utility, the Puerto Rico Energy Commission (PREC), and calls for creating a “reasonable regulatory process” for the future private owners. Handing over a public utility to the private sector, while calling for less regulation should be cause for concern.

While there is a clear need to reform PREPA, privatization is not necessarily the answer, as Puerto Rico’s own history shows. While agreeing to hand over a concession to a private firm might appear to save money at first, in practice things do not always work out as planned. And no matter who is in charge of PREPA, there is no doubt it needs a strong and accountable regulator to oversee it and protect consumers.

Months after Hurricane Maria the lights are still not back on for all Puerto Ricans. The extensive damage caused by the storm, along with the slow pace of restoring electricity have highlighted the struggles of Puerto Rico’s Electric Power Authority (PREPA). Prior to the storm, PREPA was already dealing with old and failing infrastructure, and a debt burden of about $9 billion dollars. When the storm hit, the embattled utility was not prepared to respond to the damage.  

The Fiscal Plan released by Puerto Rico’s government does not question whether privatizing PREPA is needed, but rather presents it as the only viable option. The plan claims that by privatizing the utility, it will “transform” it into an efficient, reliable, and cost-effective energy provider. The proposed privatization process consists of a mix between selling assets, and offering concessions to private companies to run operations.

However, privatization is no panacea for fixing public utilities, and Puerto Rico’s past experience should ring alarm bells. Two failed attempts at privatizing water services resulted in the government having to retake control of the utility in even worse shape. The disastrous results of Puerto Rico Aqueducts and Sewers Authority (PRASA) contracting with private companies to manage its operations are detailed in this report by Puerto Rico’s Comptroller’s Office.

In the 90s, Puerto Rico’s water services were struggling with quality issues, as well as with their finances. As a response to PRASA’s operational issues, then Governor Pedro Rosselló (the current governor’s father) created a commission to negotiate and oversee the privatization of water services. The first contract to oversee and manage water services in Puerto Rico was entered into in 1995 with a subsidiary of the French multinational Veolia.

However, after Veolia took over, things only got worse. Service quality worsened and prices for consumers increased, along with the agency’s operational deficit. To make matters worse, Veolia was not complying with environmental regulations, prompting fines and sanctions from the US Environmental Protection Agency. PRASA was ill-equipped to oversee and enforce its contract with Veolia and for years complied with the increased payments requested by Veolia, despite the lack of tangible improvements.

The contract with Veolia ended in 2001 and was not renewed. Instead Puerto Rico sought a different private contractor to take over operations. This time, Puerto Rican officials claimed they had a “top-notch Evaluation Committee” that selected an operator that would “bring current operations to world-class standards.” PRASA entered into a 10-year, $4 billion contract with Ondeo, a subsidiary of French multinational Suez, that “this time” included clauses to assure compliance with its stated goals, while also promising to bring huge savings for the government.

Less than two years later, after numerous disputes and disagreements with Ondeo, which repeatedly requested more money than the initial agreement from PRASA, while also failing to update the system’s infrastructure, PRASA paid the company a settlement to rescind the contract. After the termination of the second contract, public management of water services was resumed.  

Somehow, this disastrous experience seems to have been quickly forgotten by the ardent proponents of privatization. When PREPA was slow to respond to the damage caused by the hurricane, privatization was aggressively pushed as the only solution to effectively rebuild the power grid. Furthermore, Puerto Rico’s plan for PREPA criticizes the agency in charge of regulating the utility, the Puerto Rico Energy Commission (PREC), and calls for creating a “reasonable regulatory process” for the future private owners. Handing over a public utility to the private sector, while calling for less regulation should be cause for concern.

While there is a clear need to reform PREPA, privatization is not necessarily the answer, as Puerto Rico’s own history shows. While agreeing to hand over a concession to a private firm might appear to save money at first, in practice things do not always work out as planned. And no matter who is in charge of PREPA, there is no doubt it needs a strong and accountable regulator to oversee it and protect consumers.

This interview with Marco Ramiro Lobo, a non-voting member of the Honduran electoral authority (TSE by its Spanish acronym) was published on December 3rd by El Faro. In the days since, the TSE has conducted a partial review of actas in an attempt to satisfy concerns raised by international observers and the political opposition, and has agreed to recount the 5000 actas discussed in the interview. However, both the second and third-place finishers continue to reject the results provided by the TSE, which they say has lost all credibility. Both parties filed legal challenges to the results requesting a full vote-by-vote recount and the annulment of the elections, respectively. More than two weeks since the election, many questions remain about how things went so wrong.

He’s an alternate member but, after the president of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE in Spanish) of Honduras, he is the most visible of the tribunal’s four magistrates. He doesn’t have a vote, but he has a voice and he has made certain that he is heard. Marco Ramiro Lobo was appointed by the Honduran congress three years ago, and today he appears to be the magistrate most opposed to the decisions of the tribunal’s president, David Matamoros. He’s demanding an in-depth investigation of two system failures by the TSE’s vote-tallying technology. He admits that the TSE bears the primary responsibility for the political and social crisis gripping Honduras a week after its presidential election.

The tribunal consists of a magistrate, President David Matamoros, from the National Party, a representative from the Liberal Party, Erick Rodríguez, a member of the tiny Democratic Christian Party, Saúl Bonilla, and Lobo, a member of the small Party of Democratic Unification (UD). The Honduran congress refused to name a representative from the Free Party or the Party for Innovation and Unity (PINU), which make up the Opposition Alliance headed by Salvador Nasralla and Mel Zelaya, who are currently denouncing the reported results as fraudulent.

Without representatives on the tribunal, the opposition has relied on the resistance of magistrate Lobo to legitimate its concerns about the electoral process. But Lobo says there are clear differences of criteria among the members of the Tribunal: on one side Rodríguez and himself; on the other Matamoros and Bonilla.

After a week without official results, and violence breaking out in the streets, the TSE was scheduled to begin a special recount this Sunday [December 3rd], beginning with one thousand actas [tally sheets from voting stations signed by witnesses from political parties] sent to the TSE for special monitoring. Unfortunately, this recount will take place without observers from the Opposition Alliance, which has refused to endorse the process until the TSE commits to reviewing 5000 already processed actas with vote counts that have led to the suspicion that they were altered during the transmission process. Magistrate Lobo insists that these demands should be satisfied or else the final declaration of a winner will lack credibility.

How would you explain the current chaos?

Look, when the court met to outline its proceedings, we decided that we would give a preliminary announcement after tallying 750 actas and seeing a stable trend. But we didn’t end up doing this.

But the president of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE), David Matamoros, said late on the 26th that there wasn’t a stable trend… What does the tribunal qualify as a stable trend?

It’s a proportional representation of each of the country’s regions. We already had a stable trend that night. The tendency of the results had grown in favor of Nasralla. The president of the tribunal didn’t want to give the announcement because his party was losing.

Tell me a little bit about that night and the discussion to convince Matamoros to announce the results.

Two magistrates, Erick Rodríguez and I, wanted to give the preliminary results. The other two magistrates said the results were too close. We already had 57 percent of the actas, and they indicated a stable trend in voting outcome. At one in the morning (on Monday, the 27th) the Organization of American States (OAS) mediated an agreement. Two people came from the OAS: Gerardo de Icaza and Gerardo Vásquez. A statement needed to be made. I think this is the origin of the conflict, because this ten hour period of silence created enormous doubts. And within the tribunal there have continued to be different visions.

So you and Rodríguez had opposing views to those of Matamoros and Escobar?

Yes.

But you’re an alternate on the tribunal. You don’t have the right to vote. So it was two versus one.

I participate in all of the tribunal’s formal meetings, but I don’t vote. Up until now, we had never voted on anything.

The tribunal didn’t vote on anything? Who decided then, for example, which of the Opposition Alliances’ demands to agree to and which to dismiss?

During this entire process, we haven’t voted. Those issues have been managed by the [tribunal] presidency. I imagine he consults with the other two magistrates, but not with me.

Much of the general population is denouncing fraud surrounding the election. Is there fraud?

There are doubts. Many doubts. First, the tribunal’s silence. Second, the suspension of the vote count the day after the election. Then the first breakdown of the vote-counting system at 9 a.m. on Wednesday. The system went down for five hours. After that the system came back up but the counting was intermittent until it broke down again Thursday morning. It came back online again five hours later. This raised doubts for many, including me.

And what reason was given for these system failures?

They told us that the system broke because the memory was too full, and when they tried to increase the system’s memory capacity, the system broke instead. I’m not a technical person who can determine what happened, but this created even more doubts because before the system went down Nasralla had an advantage with an already stable trend. When the system started running again, the voting trend reversed to favor Hernández and hasn’t changed since. We invested millions so that we could have a reliable voting system. They told us that if there were an emergency, there would be backup servers… They should verify the tribunal’s database and the logs. We have asked for an audit.

Do you think the system failures were an accident?

I’m not sure if it was an accident or was deliberate. But we need an investigation.

So there’s been fraud or the tribunal is highly incompetent. Is there a third option?

It’s a partisan tribunal that represents party interests. I think the biggest problem with the tribunal is that it takes partisan positions that clearly relate to its members’ political tendencies.

And what is your political preference?

I come from the Party of Democratic Unification (UD), a very small party. But look, partisanship should not control this process, because there were already clearly defined protocols. It wasn’t the protocols that failed, but rather the political will of the tribunal to follow its own protocols.

You’re saying that processing the data has been slow because of politicization?

The TSE was initially very successful at transmitting the results. By 7 p.m. the transmission from voting centers was already much more successful than we had expected. This wasn’t the problem, but rather, as I said, the tribunal’s silence despite that fact that we already had the information.

Salvador Nasralla has denounced irregularities in the transmission of the actas.

We are obliged to take into consideration any request from anyone with doubts [regarding the election process]. What’s important is that when we make a final announcement, we do so without any remaining concerns or doubts. We should resolve the issues raised in the complaints. They aren’t difficult to resolve.

Then why haven’t they been resolved?

We’ve begun meeting with the Opposition Alliance. In addition to their current requests, they’ve added a request for access to the database logs. We’re coming up with the best way to get them that information.

What about the demand to recount the five thousand actas transmitted from vote-tallying center at the National Institute for Professional Development (INFOP) that the Alliance suspects were altered?

I think they should check these 5000 actas.

Is there disagreement around this issue?

The tribunal has not met to make a formal decision.

How long would it take to carry out this partial recount?

We could probably check the 5000 actas in three or four days.

Have any of the magistrates received external pressure?

I can only speak for myself. No one has pressured me at all. I can’t speak for the other magistrates because we don’t discuss these matters.

Does the popular action in the streets of Honduras act as a form of pressure on the tribunal?

Yes. The later this goes, the tenser it becomes. There are Hondurans who have died for no reason. If we had done things properly…

But they haven’t been done properly.

No.

Taking this all into account, if the TSE declares Juan Orlando Hernández to be the winner, many people won’t believe them.

It’s going to be difficult. Very difficult. At this point, any result will be complicated regardless of the explanations we give. Doubts are going to persist.

This interview with Marco Ramiro Lobo, a non-voting member of the Honduran electoral authority (TSE by its Spanish acronym) was published on December 3rd by El Faro. In the days since, the TSE has conducted a partial review of actas in an attempt to satisfy concerns raised by international observers and the political opposition, and has agreed to recount the 5000 actas discussed in the interview. However, both the second and third-place finishers continue to reject the results provided by the TSE, which they say has lost all credibility. Both parties filed legal challenges to the results requesting a full vote-by-vote recount and the annulment of the elections, respectively. More than two weeks since the election, many questions remain about how things went so wrong.

He’s an alternate member but, after the president of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE in Spanish) of Honduras, he is the most visible of the tribunal’s four magistrates. He doesn’t have a vote, but he has a voice and he has made certain that he is heard. Marco Ramiro Lobo was appointed by the Honduran congress three years ago, and today he appears to be the magistrate most opposed to the decisions of the tribunal’s president, David Matamoros. He’s demanding an in-depth investigation of two system failures by the TSE’s vote-tallying technology. He admits that the TSE bears the primary responsibility for the political and social crisis gripping Honduras a week after its presidential election.

The tribunal consists of a magistrate, President David Matamoros, from the National Party, a representative from the Liberal Party, Erick Rodríguez, a member of the tiny Democratic Christian Party, Saúl Bonilla, and Lobo, a member of the small Party of Democratic Unification (UD). The Honduran congress refused to name a representative from the Free Party or the Party for Innovation and Unity (PINU), which make up the Opposition Alliance headed by Salvador Nasralla and Mel Zelaya, who are currently denouncing the reported results as fraudulent.

Without representatives on the tribunal, the opposition has relied on the resistance of magistrate Lobo to legitimate its concerns about the electoral process. But Lobo says there are clear differences of criteria among the members of the Tribunal: on one side Rodríguez and himself; on the other Matamoros and Bonilla.

After a week without official results, and violence breaking out in the streets, the TSE was scheduled to begin a special recount this Sunday [December 3rd], beginning with one thousand actas [tally sheets from voting stations signed by witnesses from political parties] sent to the TSE for special monitoring. Unfortunately, this recount will take place without observers from the Opposition Alliance, which has refused to endorse the process until the TSE commits to reviewing 5000 already processed actas with vote counts that have led to the suspicion that they were altered during the transmission process. Magistrate Lobo insists that these demands should be satisfied or else the final declaration of a winner will lack credibility.

How would you explain the current chaos?

Look, when the court met to outline its proceedings, we decided that we would give a preliminary announcement after tallying 750 actas and seeing a stable trend. But we didn’t end up doing this.

But the president of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE), David Matamoros, said late on the 26th that there wasn’t a stable trend… What does the tribunal qualify as a stable trend?

It’s a proportional representation of each of the country’s regions. We already had a stable trend that night. The tendency of the results had grown in favor of Nasralla. The president of the tribunal didn’t want to give the announcement because his party was losing.

Tell me a little bit about that night and the discussion to convince Matamoros to announce the results.

Two magistrates, Erick Rodríguez and I, wanted to give the preliminary results. The other two magistrates said the results were too close. We already had 57 percent of the actas, and they indicated a stable trend in voting outcome. At one in the morning (on Monday, the 27th) the Organization of American States (OAS) mediated an agreement. Two people came from the OAS: Gerardo de Icaza and Gerardo Vásquez. A statement needed to be made. I think this is the origin of the conflict, because this ten hour period of silence created enormous doubts. And within the tribunal there have continued to be different visions.

So you and Rodríguez had opposing views to those of Matamoros and Escobar?

Yes.

But you’re an alternate on the tribunal. You don’t have the right to vote. So it was two versus one.

I participate in all of the tribunal’s formal meetings, but I don’t vote. Up until now, we had never voted on anything.

The tribunal didn’t vote on anything? Who decided then, for example, which of the Opposition Alliances’ demands to agree to and which to dismiss?

During this entire process, we haven’t voted. Those issues have been managed by the [tribunal] presidency. I imagine he consults with the other two magistrates, but not with me.

Much of the general population is denouncing fraud surrounding the election. Is there fraud?

There are doubts. Many doubts. First, the tribunal’s silence. Second, the suspension of the vote count the day after the election. Then the first breakdown of the vote-counting system at 9 a.m. on Wednesday. The system went down for five hours. After that the system came back up but the counting was intermittent until it broke down again Thursday morning. It came back online again five hours later. This raised doubts for many, including me.

And what reason was given for these system failures?

They told us that the system broke because the memory was too full, and when they tried to increase the system’s memory capacity, the system broke instead. I’m not a technical person who can determine what happened, but this created even more doubts because before the system went down Nasralla had an advantage with an already stable trend. When the system started running again, the voting trend reversed to favor Hernández and hasn’t changed since. We invested millions so that we could have a reliable voting system. They told us that if there were an emergency, there would be backup servers… They should verify the tribunal’s database and the logs. We have asked for an audit.

Do you think the system failures were an accident?

I’m not sure if it was an accident or was deliberate. But we need an investigation.

So there’s been fraud or the tribunal is highly incompetent. Is there a third option?

It’s a partisan tribunal that represents party interests. I think the biggest problem with the tribunal is that it takes partisan positions that clearly relate to its members’ political tendencies.

And what is your political preference?

I come from the Party of Democratic Unification (UD), a very small party. But look, partisanship should not control this process, because there were already clearly defined protocols. It wasn’t the protocols that failed, but rather the political will of the tribunal to follow its own protocols.

You’re saying that processing the data has been slow because of politicization?

The TSE was initially very successful at transmitting the results. By 7 p.m. the transmission from voting centers was already much more successful than we had expected. This wasn’t the problem, but rather, as I said, the tribunal’s silence despite that fact that we already had the information.

Salvador Nasralla has denounced irregularities in the transmission of the actas.

We are obliged to take into consideration any request from anyone with doubts [regarding the election process]. What’s important is that when we make a final announcement, we do so without any remaining concerns or doubts. We should resolve the issues raised in the complaints. They aren’t difficult to resolve.

Then why haven’t they been resolved?

We’ve begun meeting with the Opposition Alliance. In addition to their current requests, they’ve added a request for access to the database logs. We’re coming up with the best way to get them that information.

What about the demand to recount the five thousand actas transmitted from vote-tallying center at the National Institute for Professional Development (INFOP) that the Alliance suspects were altered?

I think they should check these 5000 actas.

Is there disagreement around this issue?

The tribunal has not met to make a formal decision.

How long would it take to carry out this partial recount?

We could probably check the 5000 actas in three or four days.

Have any of the magistrates received external pressure?

I can only speak for myself. No one has pressured me at all. I can’t speak for the other magistrates because we don’t discuss these matters.

Does the popular action in the streets of Honduras act as a form of pressure on the tribunal?

Yes. The later this goes, the tenser it becomes. There are Hondurans who have died for no reason. If we had done things properly…

But they haven’t been done properly.

No.

Taking this all into account, if the TSE declares Juan Orlando Hernández to be the winner, many people won’t believe them.

It’s going to be difficult. Very difficult. At this point, any result will be complicated regardless of the explanations we give. Doubts are going to persist.

It has been eight years since the Honduran military removed democratically elected president Manuel Zelaya from office. The post-coup period was characterized by social turmoil, violent repression by state forces, and a breakdown in the rule of law.

In November 2013, shortly before Honduras’ last presidential elections, CEPR published a report on the country’s economic situation since the 2009 coup showing that economic growth had slowed, social spending had decreased, and unemployment had worsened.

On Sunday, November 26, Honduras will again be holding presidential elections. In this post, we provide a brief, fresh overview of the macroeconomic and social indicators in Honduras since the coup, in order to help understand the economic context in which these elections will unfold.

1. Economic Growth: In the years preceding the coup, Honduras averaged 3.8 percent annual per capita GDP growth. Since 2010, this has dropped to 1.8 percent. The figure below compares Honduras’ per capita GDP growth with the region. Though higher than regional peers Guatemala and El Salvador, the decline relative to the pre-coup period was deeper in Honduras.

wilson johnston honduras fig 1

       

2. Unemployment: The labor market has gotten considerably worse since the 2009 coup. Unemployment reached a low of 3.0 percent in 2008, but has steadily increased to 7.4 percent in 2016. These numbers only tell part of the story. Developing countries often follow a pattern of low formal unemployment rates and high underemployment rates. The lack of a social safety net often forces people in developing countries to take any work they can find, regardless of quality or equitability. Subemployed workers either receive less than the minimum wage, or work fewer hours than they desire. The graph below shows unemployment, subemployment, and total underemployment, the sum of unemployment and subemployment, since 2005. After falling 10.5 percentage points from 2005 to 2008, underemployment has since increased by 27.5 percentage points. More than 63 percent of the economically active population is either unemployed, working for less than minimum wage, or working fewer hours than desired.

wilson johnston honduras fig 2

       

3. Unemployment by Gender: The employment situation has been particularly devastating for women. Historically, the underemployment rate for women has been significantly lower than that for men. Since 2008, however, the female underemployment rate has more than doubled, and in 2015, for the first time, the rate for women actually surpassed that for men ? though there was a slight improvement in 2016.  

wilson johnston honduras fig 3

4. Minimum Wage: Increasing unemployment and underemployment has occurred in a context of a minimum wage that is rising far slower than it did in the years preceding the coup. President Manuel Zelaya drastically increased the minimum wage from 2006 to 2009. During that time period, the average annual real minimum wage increase was 18.9 percent. Since the coup, however, the minimum wage has been increasing far more slowly, at just 7.1 percent.

wilson johnston honduras fig 4

5. Poverty: After the coup, poverty skyrocketed in Honduras. In 2009 before the coup, 58.1 percent of households were in poverty. By 2012, that figure has risen to 66.5 percent. Though that figure has decreased over the last four years, it remains above its pre-coup level at 60.9 percent. This decline can be at least partially attributed to policy choices, such as the slashing of social spending following the coup.

wilson johnston honduras fig 5

       

6. Extreme Poverty: Not only has Honduras experienced consistently high poverty rates, but the majority of this is extreme poverty. The graph below compares the percent of the population in extreme poverty to the rate of those not in poverty at all. As can be seen, from 2007 to 2009 the number of people out of poverty surpassed those in extreme poverty for the first time in years. This trend was reversed after the coup, and from 2011 to 2015 extreme poverty was greater. In 2016, extreme poverty dropped below nonpoverty levels for the first time in years, though it remained above its pre-coup level.

wilson johnston honduras fig 6

7. Spending Priorities: After the coup, social spending ? especially on education ? decreased. Under the Juan Orlando Hernández administration, this trend has continued, while spending on the military and public security has increased. The graph below also shows the very small percentage of total public spending that is allocated to the Rule of Law & Human Rights. Though spending for education and health remains far higher than for defense, as a percent of total spending it has decreased significantly from 21 percent to 17.1 percent. Despite the continuing flagrant abuse of human rights in the country and the lack of rule of law, especially since the coup, the paltry amount spent in these areas is especially alarming.

wilson johnston honduras fig 7

8. Public and Private Spending: Honduras was in a strong position to increase government spending in the wake of the 2009 global economic recession and its coup d’etat. However, public consumption’s contribution to GDP growth, as shown in the graph below, decreased after 2009 and turned negative in 2010 and 2011. Though it has returned to a positive level more recently, it is still below its pre-coup levels. The government has instead prioritized private sector development to spur economic growth; however, for most of the post-coup years private sector spending contributed less to GDP growth than in the years prior. After a spike in 2015, it fell precipitously in 2016.

wilson johnston honduras fig 8

9. Public and Private Capital Formation: A similar trend can be seen by looking at the contribution to GDP growth of Gross Fixed Capital Formation. The majority of investment in Honduras is undertaken by the private sector, which accounts for more than 85 percent of total gross fixed capital formation. As can be seen in the graph below, private sector investment plummeted during 2009 and has not recovered to pre-crisis levels. Though the Honduran government is relying on the private sector to spur development, private sector gross fixed capital formation actually contributed negatively to GDP growth in 2016.

wilson johnston honduras fig 9

It has been eight years since the Honduran military removed democratically elected president Manuel Zelaya from office. The post-coup period was characterized by social turmoil, violent repression by state forces, and a breakdown in the rule of law.

In November 2013, shortly before Honduras’ last presidential elections, CEPR published a report on the country’s economic situation since the 2009 coup showing that economic growth had slowed, social spending had decreased, and unemployment had worsened.

On Sunday, November 26, Honduras will again be holding presidential elections. In this post, we provide a brief, fresh overview of the macroeconomic and social indicators in Honduras since the coup, in order to help understand the economic context in which these elections will unfold.

1. Economic Growth: In the years preceding the coup, Honduras averaged 3.8 percent annual per capita GDP growth. Since 2010, this has dropped to 1.8 percent. The figure below compares Honduras’ per capita GDP growth with the region. Though higher than regional peers Guatemala and El Salvador, the decline relative to the pre-coup period was deeper in Honduras.

wilson johnston honduras fig 1

       

2. Unemployment: The labor market has gotten considerably worse since the 2009 coup. Unemployment reached a low of 3.0 percent in 2008, but has steadily increased to 7.4 percent in 2016. These numbers only tell part of the story. Developing countries often follow a pattern of low formal unemployment rates and high underemployment rates. The lack of a social safety net often forces people in developing countries to take any work they can find, regardless of quality or equitability. Subemployed workers either receive less than the minimum wage, or work fewer hours than they desire. The graph below shows unemployment, subemployment, and total underemployment, the sum of unemployment and subemployment, since 2005. After falling 10.5 percentage points from 2005 to 2008, underemployment has since increased by 27.5 percentage points. More than 63 percent of the economically active population is either unemployed, working for less than minimum wage, or working fewer hours than desired.

wilson johnston honduras fig 2

       

3. Unemployment by Gender: The employment situation has been particularly devastating for women. Historically, the underemployment rate for women has been significantly lower than that for men. Since 2008, however, the female underemployment rate has more than doubled, and in 2015, for the first time, the rate for women actually surpassed that for men ? though there was a slight improvement in 2016.  

wilson johnston honduras fig 3

4. Minimum Wage: Increasing unemployment and underemployment has occurred in a context of a minimum wage that is rising far slower than it did in the years preceding the coup. President Manuel Zelaya drastically increased the minimum wage from 2006 to 2009. During that time period, the average annual real minimum wage increase was 18.9 percent. Since the coup, however, the minimum wage has been increasing far more slowly, at just 7.1 percent.

wilson johnston honduras fig 4

5. Poverty: After the coup, poverty skyrocketed in Honduras. In 2009 before the coup, 58.1 percent of households were in poverty. By 2012, that figure has risen to 66.5 percent. Though that figure has decreased over the last four years, it remains above its pre-coup level at 60.9 percent. This decline can be at least partially attributed to policy choices, such as the slashing of social spending following the coup.

wilson johnston honduras fig 5

       

6. Extreme Poverty: Not only has Honduras experienced consistently high poverty rates, but the majority of this is extreme poverty. The graph below compares the percent of the population in extreme poverty to the rate of those not in poverty at all. As can be seen, from 2007 to 2009 the number of people out of poverty surpassed those in extreme poverty for the first time in years. This trend was reversed after the coup, and from 2011 to 2015 extreme poverty was greater. In 2016, extreme poverty dropped below nonpoverty levels for the first time in years, though it remained above its pre-coup level.

wilson johnston honduras fig 6

7. Spending Priorities: After the coup, social spending ? especially on education ? decreased. Under the Juan Orlando Hernández administration, this trend has continued, while spending on the military and public security has increased. The graph below also shows the very small percentage of total public spending that is allocated to the Rule of Law & Human Rights. Though spending for education and health remains far higher than for defense, as a percent of total spending it has decreased significantly from 21 percent to 17.1 percent. Despite the continuing flagrant abuse of human rights in the country and the lack of rule of law, especially since the coup, the paltry amount spent in these areas is especially alarming.

wilson johnston honduras fig 7

8. Public and Private Spending: Honduras was in a strong position to increase government spending in the wake of the 2009 global economic recession and its coup d’etat. However, public consumption’s contribution to GDP growth, as shown in the graph below, decreased after 2009 and turned negative in 2010 and 2011. Though it has returned to a positive level more recently, it is still below its pre-coup levels. The government has instead prioritized private sector development to spur economic growth; however, for most of the post-coup years private sector spending contributed less to GDP growth than in the years prior. After a spike in 2015, it fell precipitously in 2016.

wilson johnston honduras fig 8

9. Public and Private Capital Formation: A similar trend can be seen by looking at the contribution to GDP growth of Gross Fixed Capital Formation. The majority of investment in Honduras is undertaken by the private sector, which accounts for more than 85 percent of total gross fixed capital formation. As can be seen in the graph below, private sector investment plummeted during 2009 and has not recovered to pre-crisis levels. Though the Honduran government is relying on the private sector to spur development, private sector gross fixed capital formation actually contributed negatively to GDP growth in 2016.

wilson johnston honduras fig 9

Two weeks ago, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) released a report on food insecurity and nutrition in Latin America and the Caribbean. The report highlighted a regional increase in food insecurity, a first since the agency started collecting annual data for the Millennium Development Goals in 2000. The authors noted that the food crisis in Venezuela was central to this increase. While the percentage of the population in Venezuela experiencing undernourishment was lower than several other countries in the region ? such as Bolivia, Guatemala, Haiti, and Honduras ? in the last three years, Venezuela contributed an estimated 1.3 million newly food-insecure people to Latin America’s total.

The FAO study confirms that the Bolivarian Republic is facing a growing hunger crisis that requires action. For the past year and a half, the media have decried the Venezuelan government for its management of the crisis, but the figures they have cited do not match the FAO’s. Over the past 18 months, it has become accepted fact that the crisis is even worse than the FAO describes: the New York Times writes that “93 percent of the [Venezuelan] population cannot afford food,” and CNN reports Venezuelans “in the past year dropp[ed] an average of 19 pounds.” (In addition, a Jacobin article states: “Almost 90 percent of the population cannot buy enough food,” while The Independent laments that “75 per cent of the country’s population has lost an average of 19 pounds.”) This is because media coverage on hunger in Venezuela has relied primarily on anecdotal evidence and an inconclusive report authored in part by a member of the political coalition trying to remove Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro from office.

US newspapers and journals often attribute their Venezuelan hunger figures to “a recent survey … by the country’s leading universities.” The survey in question was published on February 27, 2016 by Simón Bolívar University, the Central University of Venezuela, and the Bengoa Foundation. The report, which focuses on Venezuelan nutrition, is part of an annual review covering the state of living conditions in the country. Maritza Landaeta-Jiménez, who as recently as 2013 was a member of the Venezuelan opposition’s Nutrition Commission, headed the 2016 research. The document, based on a survey of 6,413 Venezuelans, reported that 93 percent of Venezuelans felt that they did not have enough money to purchase food, and that 72.7 percent of Venezuelans had lost an average of 8.7 kilograms (19 pounds) in the past year. However, the same survey revealed that 67.5 percent of Venezuelans were eating three meals a day, and only 25 percent of the country felt that their nutrition could be categorized as “deficient.”

The two pairs of statistics tell different stories about the situation in Venezuela. The first pair ? 93 percent of the population lacking food money, and an average weight loss of 19 pounds for 73 percent of Venezuelans ? depicts a country in dire, humanitarian crisis. The second pair ? 67.5 percent of the population eating three meals a day, and only 25 percent feeling deficient in their nutrition ? shows a country that is struggling, but also coping with its economic and political stress. Given that these figures appear only pages apart from each other in a short report, any reader should have determined that the survey’s results are at best inconclusive, and at worst contradictory. (Three-quarters of the population is losing 19 pounds on average, but only 25 percent think they’re not getting enough food?)

Unfortunately, the results of the survey have not been questioned; quite the opposite. The English-speaking press has reported the 90-plus percent/19 pounds statistics so many times that they’ve apparently become facts that don’t require citation. Yet according to a broad LexisNexis search, the 25 percent deficient figure has never been reported in English-language newspapers.

The FAO has provided evidence that food insecurity in Venezuela has increased over the past three years. This does not excuse US journalists and policymakers from crafting narratives with indeterminate sources like the Simón Bolívar University report. The policy implications of such careless reporting are substantial. A Treasury Department press release in July justifying sanctions against Venezuela stated, “tens of millions of Venezuelans are going hungry.” Not only is this figure at least two-and-a-half times the total estimate of 4 million given by the FAO, it is also directly in line with the 90 percent statistic from the inconclusive report.

The press should pay greater attention when vetting its sources, particularly in cases where circumstances limit the availability of data. It should also use internationally accredited sources, such as the FAO’s annual reports ? which provide figures showing that Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador ? close US allies in Central America, are suffering from similar rates of food insecurity as Venezuela. These hunger crises have received far less attention than the problems facing the Bolivarian Republic, despite the fact that these Central American food shortages are both well-documented and enduring. The media would do well to give them attention.

 

Two weeks ago, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) released a report on food insecurity and nutrition in Latin America and the Caribbean. The report highlighted a regional increase in food insecurity, a first since the agency started collecting annual data for the Millennium Development Goals in 2000. The authors noted that the food crisis in Venezuela was central to this increase. While the percentage of the population in Venezuela experiencing undernourishment was lower than several other countries in the region ? such as Bolivia, Guatemala, Haiti, and Honduras ? in the last three years, Venezuela contributed an estimated 1.3 million newly food-insecure people to Latin America’s total.

The FAO study confirms that the Bolivarian Republic is facing a growing hunger crisis that requires action. For the past year and a half, the media have decried the Venezuelan government for its management of the crisis, but the figures they have cited do not match the FAO’s. Over the past 18 months, it has become accepted fact that the crisis is even worse than the FAO describes: the New York Times writes that “93 percent of the [Venezuelan] population cannot afford food,” and CNN reports Venezuelans “in the past year dropp[ed] an average of 19 pounds.” (In addition, a Jacobin article states: “Almost 90 percent of the population cannot buy enough food,” while The Independent laments that “75 per cent of the country’s population has lost an average of 19 pounds.”) This is because media coverage on hunger in Venezuela has relied primarily on anecdotal evidence and an inconclusive report authored in part by a member of the political coalition trying to remove Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro from office.

US newspapers and journals often attribute their Venezuelan hunger figures to “a recent survey … by the country’s leading universities.” The survey in question was published on February 27, 2016 by Simón Bolívar University, the Central University of Venezuela, and the Bengoa Foundation. The report, which focuses on Venezuelan nutrition, is part of an annual review covering the state of living conditions in the country. Maritza Landaeta-Jiménez, who as recently as 2013 was a member of the Venezuelan opposition’s Nutrition Commission, headed the 2016 research. The document, based on a survey of 6,413 Venezuelans, reported that 93 percent of Venezuelans felt that they did not have enough money to purchase food, and that 72.7 percent of Venezuelans had lost an average of 8.7 kilograms (19 pounds) in the past year. However, the same survey revealed that 67.5 percent of Venezuelans were eating three meals a day, and only 25 percent of the country felt that their nutrition could be categorized as “deficient.”

The two pairs of statistics tell different stories about the situation in Venezuela. The first pair ? 93 percent of the population lacking food money, and an average weight loss of 19 pounds for 73 percent of Venezuelans ? depicts a country in dire, humanitarian crisis. The second pair ? 67.5 percent of the population eating three meals a day, and only 25 percent feeling deficient in their nutrition ? shows a country that is struggling, but also coping with its economic and political stress. Given that these figures appear only pages apart from each other in a short report, any reader should have determined that the survey’s results are at best inconclusive, and at worst contradictory. (Three-quarters of the population is losing 19 pounds on average, but only 25 percent think they’re not getting enough food?)

Unfortunately, the results of the survey have not been questioned; quite the opposite. The English-speaking press has reported the 90-plus percent/19 pounds statistics so many times that they’ve apparently become facts that don’t require citation. Yet according to a broad LexisNexis search, the 25 percent deficient figure has never been reported in English-language newspapers.

The FAO has provided evidence that food insecurity in Venezuela has increased over the past three years. This does not excuse US journalists and policymakers from crafting narratives with indeterminate sources like the Simón Bolívar University report. The policy implications of such careless reporting are substantial. A Treasury Department press release in July justifying sanctions against Venezuela stated, “tens of millions of Venezuelans are going hungry.” Not only is this figure at least two-and-a-half times the total estimate of 4 million given by the FAO, it is also directly in line with the 90 percent statistic from the inconclusive report.

The press should pay greater attention when vetting its sources, particularly in cases where circumstances limit the availability of data. It should also use internationally accredited sources, such as the FAO’s annual reports ? which provide figures showing that Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador ? close US allies in Central America, are suffering from similar rates of food insecurity as Venezuela. These hunger crises have received far less attention than the problems facing the Bolivarian Republic, despite the fact that these Central American food shortages are both well-documented and enduring. The media would do well to give them attention.

 

Last month, a joint investigation by In These Times and the Puerto Rico-based Centro de Periodismo Investigativo revealed the top 10 holders of Puerto Rico’s $74.8 billion debt. The authors write:

The popular narrative of Puerto Rico’s debt holders is that they are “small” individual bondholders—rookie investors who trusted their savings to financial firms. But our investigation reveals that some of the most aggressive players demanding debt repayment in Puerto Rico’s bankruptcy court are so-called “vulture firms.” These hedge funds specialize in high-risk “troubled assets” near default or bankruptcy and cater to millionaire and billionaire investors.

While these bondholders are tied up in court with Puerto Rico and the congressionally mandated Oversight Board, the situation on the ground remains grim after the devastation caused by Hurricanes Irma and Maria. Storm-related damages are estimated to be as high as $95 billion.

If Puerto Rico was unable to pay its debt before the storms, it’s virtually impossible now. But that hasn’t stopped at least one vulture, GoldenTree Asset Management, from doubling down on its Puerto Rico bet.

Number five on the In These Times/Centro de Periodismo Investigativo list, GoldenTree reportedly held $587,253,141 worth of Puerto Rican COFINA bonds (bonds backed by income from Puerto Rico’s sales tax). That figure was based on a court filing from mid-August. On October 26, however, bondholders were required to again disclose their financial interests. That filing showed GoldenTree holding assets valued at $852,578,549, meaning that in the last two months, GoldenTree has acquired an additional $250 million in Puerto Rican bonds.

This is classic vulture behavior ? and exactly why many are now arguing for urgent and significant debt relief for the struggling island.

It’s impossible to know exactly when or at what cost GoldenTree acquired those additional bonds ? a spokesperson for GoldenTree declined to answer questions on the timing or cost of the purchases. But even before the hurricanes, COFINA bonds were trading at significantly less than face value. After Hurricane Maria, with Puerto Rico’s inability to pay becoming more obvious, prices have plummeted even further. Given that, and based on where some COFINA bonds are currently trading, it appears unlikely GoldenTree would have paid more than 20 cents on the dollar. At that price, if GoldenTree were repaid in full just on these recent acquisitions it would stand to make a tidy 400 percent profit.

Steven Tananbaum, GoldenTree’s chief investment officer, told a business conference in September (after Hurricane Irma, but before Hurricane Maria) that he continued to view Puerto Rican bonds as an attractive investment. GoldenTree is spearheading a group of COFINA bondholders that collectively holds about $3.3 billion in bonds. But with Puerto Rico facing an unprecedented humanitarian crisis, and lacking enough funds to even begin to pay back its massive debt load, these vulture funds are relying on their ability to convince politicians and the courts to make them whole. The COFINA bondholder group has spent $610,000 to lobby Congress over the last two years, while GoldenTree itself made $64,000 in political contributions to federal candidates in the 2016 cycle.

For vulture funds like GoldenTree, the destruction of Puerto Rico is yet another opportunity for exorbitant profits. Let’s hope the politicians and the courts don’t let them get away with it.

Last month, a joint investigation by In These Times and the Puerto Rico-based Centro de Periodismo Investigativo revealed the top 10 holders of Puerto Rico’s $74.8 billion debt. The authors write:

The popular narrative of Puerto Rico’s debt holders is that they are “small” individual bondholders—rookie investors who trusted their savings to financial firms. But our investigation reveals that some of the most aggressive players demanding debt repayment in Puerto Rico’s bankruptcy court are so-called “vulture firms.” These hedge funds specialize in high-risk “troubled assets” near default or bankruptcy and cater to millionaire and billionaire investors.

While these bondholders are tied up in court with Puerto Rico and the congressionally mandated Oversight Board, the situation on the ground remains grim after the devastation caused by Hurricanes Irma and Maria. Storm-related damages are estimated to be as high as $95 billion.

If Puerto Rico was unable to pay its debt before the storms, it’s virtually impossible now. But that hasn’t stopped at least one vulture, GoldenTree Asset Management, from doubling down on its Puerto Rico bet.

Number five on the In These Times/Centro de Periodismo Investigativo list, GoldenTree reportedly held $587,253,141 worth of Puerto Rican COFINA bonds (bonds backed by income from Puerto Rico’s sales tax). That figure was based on a court filing from mid-August. On October 26, however, bondholders were required to again disclose their financial interests. That filing showed GoldenTree holding assets valued at $852,578,549, meaning that in the last two months, GoldenTree has acquired an additional $250 million in Puerto Rican bonds.

This is classic vulture behavior ? and exactly why many are now arguing for urgent and significant debt relief for the struggling island.

It’s impossible to know exactly when or at what cost GoldenTree acquired those additional bonds ? a spokesperson for GoldenTree declined to answer questions on the timing or cost of the purchases. But even before the hurricanes, COFINA bonds were trading at significantly less than face value. After Hurricane Maria, with Puerto Rico’s inability to pay becoming more obvious, prices have plummeted even further. Given that, and based on where some COFINA bonds are currently trading, it appears unlikely GoldenTree would have paid more than 20 cents on the dollar. At that price, if GoldenTree were repaid in full just on these recent acquisitions it would stand to make a tidy 400 percent profit.

Steven Tananbaum, GoldenTree’s chief investment officer, told a business conference in September (after Hurricane Irma, but before Hurricane Maria) that he continued to view Puerto Rican bonds as an attractive investment. GoldenTree is spearheading a group of COFINA bondholders that collectively holds about $3.3 billion in bonds. But with Puerto Rico facing an unprecedented humanitarian crisis, and lacking enough funds to even begin to pay back its massive debt load, these vulture funds are relying on their ability to convince politicians and the courts to make them whole. The COFINA bondholder group has spent $610,000 to lobby Congress over the last two years, while GoldenTree itself made $64,000 in political contributions to federal candidates in the 2016 cycle.

For vulture funds like GoldenTree, the destruction of Puerto Rico is yet another opportunity for exorbitant profits. Let’s hope the politicians and the courts don’t let them get away with it.

In 2015, the Obama administration announced that Venezuela had thrown the United States into a “national emergency” because Venezuela constituted “an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States.” On August 25, the Trump administration cited this ongoing emergency to justify financial sanctions against Venezuela that are likely to deepen the economic crisis there and generate greater human suffering.

How does a country with a fraction of the US’s military budget and a government with no history of international aggression cause a national emergency in the most powerful state in the world? Sure, the short answer is always “politics.” But in this case, there’s a forty-year history of presidential overreach and unaccountability that calls for a closer look.

In 1976, the House and Senate, with Democratic supermajorities in both, were looking to curb executive power in the wake of the Vietnam War. On trial was the concept of the “national emergency,” a term derived from an amendment to the 1917 Trading with the Enemy Act (TWEA). This World War I law gave the president authority to impose unilateral sanctions and restrict trade with warring enemy countries. Initially, it said nothing about national emergencies. But in 1933, President Roosevelt amended Trading with the Enemy to include executive authority over “any transactions in foreign exchange, transfers of credit between or payments by banking institutions as defined by the President” during a time of national emergency. Roosevelt declared the first of the US’s newly defined national emergencies, and promptly froze a majority of bank assets to prevent bank runs during the heart of the Great Depression.

This might have been well and good had Roosevelt ended his national emergency. Unfortunately, he and his successors failed to do so. The emergency would last until Congress ended it in 1976. In expanding the president’s peacetime powers to include former war powers, Roosevelt set the stage for decades of executive expansion. According to a 1973 Senate report on the issue, Roosevelt established precedent: “In time of crisis the President should utilize any statutory authority readily at hand, regardless of its original purposes, with the firm expectation of ex post facto congressional concurrence.” To be clear, that’s the US government admitting that the president can do what he wants, when he wants, and Congress will back him up later if there’s a shred of legal evidence to support his actions.

Officially, the 94th US Congress (Jan. 1975 to Jan. 1977) wanted to recalibrate its relationship with the executive branch and limit presidential power. It was aware that “section 5 (b) [of the Roosevelt national emergency amendment to the TWEA] has become essentially an unlimited grant of authority for the President to exercise, at his discretion, broad powers in both the domestic and international economic arena, without congressional review,” as a House International Relations Committee report detailed. However ? the two acts the Congress passed over the next two years, the National Emergencies Act (NEA) and the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) ? ended up merely formalizing the process and powers related to a national emergency.

The NEA ended the current emergencies, required yearly extensions for any new emergency, and put in place language mandating that powers exercised by the president be traceable to a written law. In doing so, the National Emergencies Act “provided for [the] statutory resolution and definition concerning … national emergencies” as a 1976 House Judiciary Committee report on the bill stated, but the act did not “provide for orderly implementation and termination of future national emergencies,” which the same House report also called for. This fact becomes clear when examining the history of national emergencies since the passage of the two laws. The yearly extensions have been formalities, shown by the fact that so far 28 of them have lasted for more than a decade. Of the 54 total emergencies declared since 1976, 28 are still active. With the passage of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act in 1977, Congress explicitly gave the president the right to impose sanctions during a national emergency, circumventing their own attempt to limit presidential authority to powers written into law … by writing the power into law for him.

Presidents took that power and ran with it. The national emergency Jimmy Carter declared against Iran immediately after the passage of the NEA and IEEPA is still going today, as are the accompanying sanctions. The sanctions against Nicaragua in the 1980s were the product of a national emergency. The sanctions against Iraq in the 1990s have been estimated to have left at hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children dead. These sanctions also stemmed from a so-called “national emergency”. Currently, 18 countries are causing “national emergencies” in the US, and are therefore sanctioned. If that sounds silly, it should. The list includes Venezuela, which analysts believe will suffer greatly from sanctions targeting Venezuelan debt and oil profits.

Congress passed the National Emergency and International Emergency Economic Powers Acts to rebalance the relationship between the executive and the legislative branches of government. By codifying the process and powers surrounding a so-called national emergency, they instead gave the executive a primary vector to carry out unilateral foreign policy. Congress should consider reexamining this legislation, as it has clearly strengthened the president’s ability to carry out extraordinary and potentially destabilizing and harmful foreign policy measures, without any congressional involvement. A first step could be for Congress to set forth concrete criteria for what can be called a national emergency, particularly in cases that lead to sanctions.

In 2015, the Obama administration announced that Venezuela had thrown the United States into a “national emergency” because Venezuela constituted “an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States.” On August 25, the Trump administration cited this ongoing emergency to justify financial sanctions against Venezuela that are likely to deepen the economic crisis there and generate greater human suffering.

How does a country with a fraction of the US’s military budget and a government with no history of international aggression cause a national emergency in the most powerful state in the world? Sure, the short answer is always “politics.” But in this case, there’s a forty-year history of presidential overreach and unaccountability that calls for a closer look.

In 1976, the House and Senate, with Democratic supermajorities in both, were looking to curb executive power in the wake of the Vietnam War. On trial was the concept of the “national emergency,” a term derived from an amendment to the 1917 Trading with the Enemy Act (TWEA). This World War I law gave the president authority to impose unilateral sanctions and restrict trade with warring enemy countries. Initially, it said nothing about national emergencies. But in 1933, President Roosevelt amended Trading with the Enemy to include executive authority over “any transactions in foreign exchange, transfers of credit between or payments by banking institutions as defined by the President” during a time of national emergency. Roosevelt declared the first of the US’s newly defined national emergencies, and promptly froze a majority of bank assets to prevent bank runs during the heart of the Great Depression.

This might have been well and good had Roosevelt ended his national emergency. Unfortunately, he and his successors failed to do so. The emergency would last until Congress ended it in 1976. In expanding the president’s peacetime powers to include former war powers, Roosevelt set the stage for decades of executive expansion. According to a 1973 Senate report on the issue, Roosevelt established precedent: “In time of crisis the President should utilize any statutory authority readily at hand, regardless of its original purposes, with the firm expectation of ex post facto congressional concurrence.” To be clear, that’s the US government admitting that the president can do what he wants, when he wants, and Congress will back him up later if there’s a shred of legal evidence to support his actions.

Officially, the 94th US Congress (Jan. 1975 to Jan. 1977) wanted to recalibrate its relationship with the executive branch and limit presidential power. It was aware that “section 5 (b) [of the Roosevelt national emergency amendment to the TWEA] has become essentially an unlimited grant of authority for the President to exercise, at his discretion, broad powers in both the domestic and international economic arena, without congressional review,” as a House International Relations Committee report detailed. However ? the two acts the Congress passed over the next two years, the National Emergencies Act (NEA) and the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) ? ended up merely formalizing the process and powers related to a national emergency.

The NEA ended the current emergencies, required yearly extensions for any new emergency, and put in place language mandating that powers exercised by the president be traceable to a written law. In doing so, the National Emergencies Act “provided for [the] statutory resolution and definition concerning … national emergencies” as a 1976 House Judiciary Committee report on the bill stated, but the act did not “provide for orderly implementation and termination of future national emergencies,” which the same House report also called for. This fact becomes clear when examining the history of national emergencies since the passage of the two laws. The yearly extensions have been formalities, shown by the fact that so far 28 of them have lasted for more than a decade. Of the 54 total emergencies declared since 1976, 28 are still active. With the passage of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act in 1977, Congress explicitly gave the president the right to impose sanctions during a national emergency, circumventing their own attempt to limit presidential authority to powers written into law … by writing the power into law for him.

Presidents took that power and ran with it. The national emergency Jimmy Carter declared against Iran immediately after the passage of the NEA and IEEPA is still going today, as are the accompanying sanctions. The sanctions against Nicaragua in the 1980s were the product of a national emergency. The sanctions against Iraq in the 1990s have been estimated to have left at hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children dead. These sanctions also stemmed from a so-called “national emergency”. Currently, 18 countries are causing “national emergencies” in the US, and are therefore sanctioned. If that sounds silly, it should. The list includes Venezuela, which analysts believe will suffer greatly from sanctions targeting Venezuelan debt and oil profits.

Congress passed the National Emergency and International Emergency Economic Powers Acts to rebalance the relationship between the executive and the legislative branches of government. By codifying the process and powers surrounding a so-called national emergency, they instead gave the executive a primary vector to carry out unilateral foreign policy. Congress should consider reexamining this legislation, as it has clearly strengthened the president’s ability to carry out extraordinary and potentially destabilizing and harmful foreign policy measures, without any congressional involvement. A first step could be for Congress to set forth concrete criteria for what can be called a national emergency, particularly in cases that lead to sanctions.

As Puerto Rico’s debt saga plays out in court, its Financial Oversight and Management Board continues to push for further austerity measures that directly impact the people of Puerto Rico. In an effort to comply with the demands of the board, the Puerto Rican government cut Christmas bonuses for all its employees. For the board these cuts were not sufficient, and in a letter sent last week to the governor, they are now mandating furloughs for government employees.

In March 2017, the Financial Oversight and Management Board, created through US Congress’ Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA), certified a 10-year fiscal plan for Puerto Rico that called for severe spending cuts along with tax increases. However, all the proposed measures under the plan’s best case scenario only put aside $7.9 billion for debt repayment over 10 years, while the island’s current debt burden is estimated at over $73 billion.

This fiscal plan projects negative real growth until at least 2024, without taking into account the further negative impact the austerity measures would have on growth.  Furthermore, the plan does not address many of the underlying issues that caused Puerto Rico’s economic decline. The plan sentences Puerto Rico to yet another lost decade, and despite its rejection by creditors that triggered a bankruptcy-like procedure, the board is continuing to push for the plan’s implementation.

A sizeable chunk of the spending cuts comes from “government right-sizing,” which targets overall operational costs, along with payroll expenses of the government. Currently, the government is the largest employer in Puerto Rico’s very weak labor market: over 23 percent of people employed in Puerto Rico work in the public sector. In their efforts to comply with the board’s demands, the government of Puerto Rico has already taken steps to reduce expenses, introducing measures to save $662 million for the 2018 fiscal year. To cut down on payroll costs, the government has cut the Christmas bonuses that employees had been receiving under its labor laws since 1969.

However, the fiscal board did not believe those cuts were sufficient and demanded another $218 million in savings through mandatory furloughs until at least the end of this year. The board is requiring a furlough of two to four days per month for almost all government employees. While the $218 million would barely make a dent in Puerto Rico’s fiscal shortfall, a 10 to 20 percent pay cut for almost a quarter of its labor force will be felt strongly by the island’s residents. Although Puerto Rican officials have pledged to not implement the furloughs, the fiscal board believes that it has the power to require their implementation. If implementation is delayed, the board has warned, the furloughs will be deeper.  

The poverty rate in Puerto Rico is above 40 percent for families, and 60 percent for children. The median household income is barely above $19,000, much lower than on the mainland US, where median household income is around $55,000, despite comparable living costs. The lack of economic opportunities has spurred massive outmigration, with the island losing 10 percent of its population over the last decade. In a statement filed when bankruptcy proceedings began, the oversight board expressed concern with the Puerto Rican economy’s “bleak spiral” that will be exacerbated by out-migration as a result of the reduced demand for goods and services. This concern should extend to the consequences of cutting the incomes of over 200,000 government employees.  

The board’s decision to directly reduce the disposable incomes of almost a quarter of the labor force will impact not only government employees but also overall demand in the economy, and possibly cause some government employees to move to the mainland. For Puerto Rico’s weak and hamstrung economy such measures can have devastating consequences. The negative feedback of the cuts is likely to offset the savings the government would achieve by imposing them in the first place. Instead of forcefully pushing for measures that punish the people of Puerto Rico and exacerbate the crisis, the board should put ordinary Puerto Ricans first, and work on solutions to revive the economy and protect workers.

As Puerto Rico’s debt saga plays out in court, its Financial Oversight and Management Board continues to push for further austerity measures that directly impact the people of Puerto Rico. In an effort to comply with the demands of the board, the Puerto Rican government cut Christmas bonuses for all its employees. For the board these cuts were not sufficient, and in a letter sent last week to the governor, they are now mandating furloughs for government employees.

In March 2017, the Financial Oversight and Management Board, created through US Congress’ Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA), certified a 10-year fiscal plan for Puerto Rico that called for severe spending cuts along with tax increases. However, all the proposed measures under the plan’s best case scenario only put aside $7.9 billion for debt repayment over 10 years, while the island’s current debt burden is estimated at over $73 billion.

This fiscal plan projects negative real growth until at least 2024, without taking into account the further negative impact the austerity measures would have on growth.  Furthermore, the plan does not address many of the underlying issues that caused Puerto Rico’s economic decline. The plan sentences Puerto Rico to yet another lost decade, and despite its rejection by creditors that triggered a bankruptcy-like procedure, the board is continuing to push for the plan’s implementation.

A sizeable chunk of the spending cuts comes from “government right-sizing,” which targets overall operational costs, along with payroll expenses of the government. Currently, the government is the largest employer in Puerto Rico’s very weak labor market: over 23 percent of people employed in Puerto Rico work in the public sector. In their efforts to comply with the board’s demands, the government of Puerto Rico has already taken steps to reduce expenses, introducing measures to save $662 million for the 2018 fiscal year. To cut down on payroll costs, the government has cut the Christmas bonuses that employees had been receiving under its labor laws since 1969.

However, the fiscal board did not believe those cuts were sufficient and demanded another $218 million in savings through mandatory furloughs until at least the end of this year. The board is requiring a furlough of two to four days per month for almost all government employees. While the $218 million would barely make a dent in Puerto Rico’s fiscal shortfall, a 10 to 20 percent pay cut for almost a quarter of its labor force will be felt strongly by the island’s residents. Although Puerto Rican officials have pledged to not implement the furloughs, the fiscal board believes that it has the power to require their implementation. If implementation is delayed, the board has warned, the furloughs will be deeper.  

The poverty rate in Puerto Rico is above 40 percent for families, and 60 percent for children. The median household income is barely above $19,000, much lower than on the mainland US, where median household income is around $55,000, despite comparable living costs. The lack of economic opportunities has spurred massive outmigration, with the island losing 10 percent of its population over the last decade. In a statement filed when bankruptcy proceedings began, the oversight board expressed concern with the Puerto Rican economy’s “bleak spiral” that will be exacerbated by out-migration as a result of the reduced demand for goods and services. This concern should extend to the consequences of cutting the incomes of over 200,000 government employees.  

The board’s decision to directly reduce the disposable incomes of almost a quarter of the labor force will impact not only government employees but also overall demand in the economy, and possibly cause some government employees to move to the mainland. For Puerto Rico’s weak and hamstrung economy such measures can have devastating consequences. The negative feedback of the cuts is likely to offset the savings the government would achieve by imposing them in the first place. Instead of forcefully pushing for measures that punish the people of Puerto Rico and exacerbate the crisis, the board should put ordinary Puerto Ricans first, and work on solutions to revive the economy and protect workers.

The June 4 governor’s election in the State of Mexico (or Edomex), the most populous state in Mexico, came close to ending the Partido Revolucionario Institucional’s (PRI) nearly nine-decade-long control over the state.

Throughout the campaign and its aftermath, PRI’s illegal election interference, or what the New York Times called “business as usual in the State of Mexico,” 1 was widely documented by independent observers. Even as PRI-controlled election monitors proclaimed their candidate the victor with a slim plurality, evidence of extensive irregularities undermined the results’ legitimacy. The absence of a clear mandate produced a scandal and strengthened the prospects of the leading opposition party ahead of the 2018 presidential elections.

It wasn’t the Partido de Acción Nacional (PAN), the right-wing party that had interrupted the PRI’s grip on the presidency with the elections of Vicente Fox in 2000 and Felipe Calderón in 2006, that threatened PRI’s stranglehold on the state. Rather, a new political force, the Movimiento Regeneración Nacional (Morena), emerged as the most credible challenger to the PRI.

Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the left-wing perennial presidential candidate, formed Morena in 2011 and formally organized it as a political party in early 2014. López Obrador (popularly known as “AMLO”) was previously a member of the Party of the Democratic Revolution (or PRD), and stood as that party’s candidate in two contested and ultimately unsuccessful presidential bids in 2006 and 2012, in which many believe that fraud played a decisive role. While the PRD emerged from the PRI’s left faction in the 1980s, the party recently turned to coalitions with the conservative PAN. Meanwhile, some of the PRD’s leadership has been linked to corruption scandals since at least the early 2000s. 2

In the 2017 elections, the State of Mexico Electoral Institute (IEEM) reported a significant increase in voter turnout to over 6 million people, or 53 percent of eligible voters. In 2011, the PRI candidate won overwhelmingly, with a 46 percent turnout, the year before the PAN’s 12-year interruption of PRI presidencies was halted. In 2005, a year before the PAN again won the presidency in a bitterly contested campaign against AMLO and the PRD, current president Enrique Peña Nieto won the governorship of Edomex with only 42 percent voter participation. 3

The IEEM’s initial official estimates failed to reach their own May 3 protocol of 1,800 voting booths tabulated, with only 1,347 included in the rapid count following the election. 4 Still, early estimates from the Preliminary Election Results Program (PREP) excited Morena supporters with a slim advantage for their candidate, Delfina Gómez, until the final tally days later declared the PRI’s Alfredo del Mazo Maza governor-elect with 33.69 percent, over Gómez’s 30.91 percent. 5 Morena supporters also noted that the National Electoral Institute (INE) had installed voting booths at a much slower pace than required by law, and that while the INE had promised that voting would begin at 8 a.m. and carry on until 6 p.m., by 9:50 a.m. officials had only installed 57 percent of Edomex voting booths. 6

Del Mazo may be the officially declared victor (with extensive irregularities, as we’ll see below) but Gómez and Morena’s rapid surge in the official vote count made it the closest governor’s election in Edomex on record. The incumbent PRI governor won with 61 percent of the vote in 2011, and the currently deeply unpopular President Enrique Peña Nieto, who survived credible allegations of corruption during his presidential campaign, had managed to officially win close to 50 percent of votes back in 2005.

IEEM’s figures depict a margin of about 170,000 votes in Del Mazo’s favor. With no comparable figures available prior to 1993, when “Mexico was still considered more or less a one-party state,” 7 it is likely that the Edomex elections were the most competitive in the state’s history. 8

Indeed, Animal Político describes the Edomex 2017 results as a “collapse” for the PRI, and “unprecedented growth” for the infant party, Morena. 9 In raw vote numbers, the PRI lost a million supporters, about a third of its 3 million vote total in 2011. When taken as a proportion of the election results, however, Del Mazo’s campaign results represent an abject failure. The 2011 PRI candidate had won with 62 percent of the vote, whereas Del Mazo managed 33 percent. 10

Fraud: Accusations and Evidence

Accusations of fraud marred the Edomex elections well before a single vote was cast. For example, the Washington Post reported that eligible voters were offered cash discounts from the PRI at local shops if they traded in their voting credentials and refrained from voting, a clear violation of Mexican election laws. 11 The Argentine outlet Segundo Enfoque and others reported that some voters traded in their electoral credentials for debit cards that would receive post-election deposits of 2,000 Mexican pesos, or about $100. 12

Reuters quoted PRI-supporter Maria de los Remedios Gonzales’ cynical logic in accepting PRI pamphlets that promised cash payouts should Del Mazo win: “Better the devil you know …. At the end of the day, it’s our money, and they give us a bit back.” 13 On the day of the election, independent observers reported that voters received burner phones to take into the ballot box and provide photographic evidence that they had voted for Del Mazo or other PRI candidates as part of a quid pro quo. 14

The New York Times is probably justified in identifying this kind of overt interference in the democratic process as “usual,” but as pre-election polls showed a tightening race, the tainted atmosphere of electoral sleight of hand took on a more blunt, violent air. For example, authorities have yet to identify who left the dozens of pigs’ heads stacked menacingly in front of the Morena state headquarters on June 3. 15 Pigs’ heads were also left in front of two other Morena offices in Tlalnepantla and Ixtapaluca-Chalco. 16

International and local observers documented a pattern of violent intimidation toward opponents to PRI rule. Alex Main, Senior Associate for International Policy at CEPR, participated in an independent investigation of the election proceedings in early June. Commenting at a joint press conference in Toluca, Main relayed that an observer from the civil society organization #NiUnFraudeMás, Soledad, had received threats: after an anonymous phone caller asked whether Soledad supported Morena, the unidentified person threatened her and her family with murder.

Main also received reports of intimidation of independent observers in the zone of Ahuizotla. Observers reported illegal busing of voters and, after taking photos of apparent PRI operatives, received death threats from an armed man near voting booth 2866. 17

Most alarming were disappearances of Morena party members. The PRI spokesman for Edomex and other officials confirmed at least two disappearances, one of a Morena official in Metepec, and another of the Morena coordinator in Atlacomulco, the area where Peña Nieto began his rise within the PRI, reportedly as part of the infamous Grupo Atlacomulco. 18 Peña Nieto had established local alliances with his uncle and former Edomex governor Arturo Montiel of Grupo Atlacomulco, before he became governor of Edomex and later head of state. The president, who is distantly related to his party’s Edomex candidate, currently boasts an approval rating of just 12 percent. 19

The spokesman assured the public: “Since the morning, I have been attentive … working with both the State Security Commission and the office of the Attorney General.” But the Peña Nieto administration’s documented record of near-universal impunity in the many disappearances of journalists, political figures, and others raises considerable doubt as to the successful resolution of these kidnappings. 20 Cristina “N.” was witness to the disappearance of her husband Óscar Juárez Cárdenez, the Atlacomulco representative. She saw two cars arrive from her balcony and later found her disappeared husband’s T-shirt on the street, tattered and blood stained. 21 Mexico City-based La Jornada also reported that state police forcibly removed about 20 Morena party members from their hotel rooms in Toluca on the discredited pretext of a bomb threat. 22

Much of Main and other observers’ testimony related to the municipality of Naucalpán, particularly the town of Chimalpa, where they witnessed physical threats and also non-violent obstacles and impediments to a fair election. The PRI’s ground operations included a system by which voters would receive their benefit for voting PRI under the guise of breakfast or a friendly gathering at nearby houses.

Christy Thornton, another election observer and professor of Latin American history at Rowan University, defined the so-called “casa amiga” program as a fraud “where PRI operatives coordinate various kinds of voter coercion, from outright buying of votes to incentivizing individuals to bring five or ten others with them to the polls.” 23 As an example of this systematic bribery, the observers witnessed eligible voters, “all women of very humble social condition,” who were apparently returning from voting booth 3002 to queue outside of a nearby house with a known PRI operative inside.

While illegal, the casa amiga and desayuno (breakfast) vote buying programs reflect the PRI’s broader campaign strategy of targeted patronage to affect election outcomes. Del Mazo campaigned on the “pink salary,” a promise to distribute over $100 every other month to more than 500,000 poor women. Del Mazo’s campaign manager framed the policy as “allowing the man to have the opportunity to leave to work to produce an income for his family.” In one of Del Mazo’s antiseptic campaign ads, the silver-haired scion quipped “they prepare breakfast … they deserve a dream.” 24

Spain’s El País reported pink cards were distributed as PRI “campaign objects/materials” before June 4 around the State of Mexico, and reminded readers of present PRI governor Ávila’s 2011 campaign “trick” of promising pharmaceutical aid, in the form of a green card, in return for a PRI vote. Noemí Romero, who lives in Edomex, said that when she and her mother went to the pharmacy after the 2011 election ended overwhelmingly in Ávila’s favor, the clerk laughed and asked why they would believe PRI’s promises. “We wanted the ground to swallow us up in shame. This pink salary, it is the same as the green card, it’s the same, they only changed the color.” 25 In 2017, however, #NiUnFraudeMás documented payouts in the form of pink debit cards.

While it is not illegal to promise social benefits for everyone as part of an election campaign pledge, the recent experience in Edomex included widespread illegal vote-buying techniques, as well as harassment, and even forced disappearances that appear to be campaign-related.

According to the advocacy campaign for electoral transparency, #NiUnFraudeMás, the seven most common forms of interference were:

“pressure on state and municipal government workers, transport workers, health workers, teachers and police; psychological terrorism; busing, voter coercion and vote-buying; violation of the campaign ban just prior to election day; exceeding campaign spending limits; inconsistencies between the collection of election day minutes in the official record, the rapid count, PREP and the district count; and deficiencies in electoral organization and training.”

Finally, the third report from #NiUnFraudeMás has links to video evidence of police intimidation and coercion on behalf of the PRI; police violence against journalist Alan García of the newspaper El Gráfico; 26 an attack against Morena representative Rodrigo Abdalá in Atlacomulco; and the intimidation of independent observers.

There were also less violent forms of interference: photo evidence of the pink salary system in quid pro quo form; PRI propaganda and misinformation on public transport; an apparent admission of illegal busing from multiple PRI operators; 27 illegal PRI counts of voters in front of voting booth 2266; 28 arbitrary elimination of votes in Toluca; 29 and insufficient ballots in densely populated areas.

There was an especially high presence of reported irregularities in the municipalities of Naucalpán and Ecatepec, where the rate of femicides sets another poor record. 30 The two zones tied with 39 reported electoral irregularities of a total of 601 in the 125 municipalities overall.

In sum, #NiUnFraudeMás described the PRI’s overall electoral blueprint as “a strategy of psychological warfare” and to create “fear [among] the militants and representatives of Morena and [within] the entire society.” 31

In mobilization against the thoroughly documented irregularities and fraud, the organization led by artists, academics, and activists called for a full recount, and, if necessary, a complete repeat of the gubernatorial election itself. #NiUnFraudeMás members also demanded the resignation of the PRI-controlled election counselors of the IEEM and the INE, among other officials. 32

#NiUnFraudeMás’s most recent press bulletin shores up the constitutional bonafides needed to demand both a “totally autonomous and independent citizen recount,” as well as “the nullification of the eventual ‘triumph’ of Alfredo del Mazo,” citing the Mexican constitution to bolster its case. Its July 10 press release notes that Article 6 affords Mexican citizens the right to “free access to diverse and timely information,” and Article 41 guarantees the right to “free, authentic and periodic elections.” 33

Institutional Investigations and Compromises

La Fiscalía Especializada Para la Atención de Delitos Electorales (FEPADE), the federal agency responsible for investigating voter fraud, reported evidence of interference before June 4. The agency at first refrained from detaining drivers of illegal busing operations, intercepted en route from the Plaza Américas in Naucalpán to Nezahualcóyotl, but without passengers, on a possible practice run. FEPADE promised an investigation. 34

Multiple reports emerged of an election day mobilization that included 3,500 PRI-voting bus riders on 70 buses, and that FEPADE arrested two bus drivers involved. Two days after the election, FEPADE announced that there were at least 192 outstanding arrest warrants, primarily for alleged vote purchasing and reported that most of the complaints filed related to “fraud in the vote counting.” 35 For example, one video uploaded to social media uncovered an instance of an IEEM official apparently inflating the PRI vote tally through officials inaccurately transmitting vote totals from one to another, verbally changing the results. 36

Both Morena and the PRD lodged an official complaint with the INE, arguing against the elections’ legitimacy because Del Mazo and the PRI exceeded spending limits by as much as 40 percent. 37 Horacio Duarte, a representative of Morena, said that someone close to Del Mazo and the PRI anonymously submitted folders with financial papers that purport to document the excess expenditure. The Morena representative also claimed that the evidence was derived from the “internal accounting system” of the PRI. 38

While the INE hastily refused a full recount, they did conduct a partial one, potentially to save face. Some of the results strongly suggest both fraud and a cover-up. John Ackerman, a researcher and law professor at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, observed a recount in Naucalpán de Juaréz, at voting booth 2836 in which, he said, Del Mazo’s vote total fell from 640 to 81 votes. Ackerman commented in a tweet with photographic evidence: “no wonder they don’t want to open the other ballots!” 39 During the vote count, the INE president of district 32 attempted to remove Ackerman from the premises with the use of police, while defending the democratic legitimacy of the process: “There are no delinquents here,” he said. 40

A week after the scandal-ridden election, AMLO formally appealed to the Tribunal Electoral del Estado de México (TEEM) with 45 legal challenges, one for each district in Edomex. He called for the Tribunal to “clean up the election” and declare Delfina Gómez the next governor of Edomex.

AMLO further accused the PRI of buying votes and filling ballot boxes “with an operation led and directed by Enrique Peña Nieto,” who is also the distant cousin of Del Mazo. 41 (Del Mazo’s family lineage is a legacy in Edomex, where both his father and grandfather served as PRI governors.)

AMLO went on to insist that, if the Tribunal rejects Morena’s challenges, the party would appeal to the national Electoral Tribunal. His social media speech averred: México “is a democratic republic, not a monarchy.” 42

According to the IEEM, Morena was not the only political party to challenge the results of the historically competitive June 4 election. The conservative PAN party also submitted appeals in 36 of the 45 electoral districts at play in Edomex, and the PRD challenged the results in 39 districts. All three parties accuse the PRI of federal interference and election fraud, citing irregularities in the district counts and in voter registration. In spite of IEEM’s June 9 announcement of victory for the PRI, the bellwether election may not be resolved until TEEM’s self-imposed deadline of August 16. 43

AMLO emphasized that if the TEEM rules in favor of the status quo, Morena will still appeal before the Mexican federal tribunal to annul the elections. AMLO attempted this level of legal appeal in the aftermath of the 2006 presidential race, and urged his supporters to occupy Mexico City’s Zócalo plaza for two months, but the tribunal ruled unanimously against the then PRD candidate despite documented irregularities. 44 Next year, Mexico again holds presidential elections, and Edomex was not the only suspicious electoral event of the year, not to speak of accusations of electoral espionage by Peña Nieto. 45

Conclusion

Just a fortnight after the election, opinion polling revealed massive discontent with the electoral authorities. In a national poll by the Mexico City newspaper Reforma, just 37 percent thought the INE to be prepared to organize the 2018 presidential elections. Nearly 70 percent of those polled agreed there was fraud in the Edomex elections, while only 14 percent believed in the elections’ legitimacy. The same poll found 60 percent of Mexicans thought the northern state of Coahuila’s gubernatorial elections were fraudulent, while only 10 percent maintained confidence in their “cleanliness.” 46 At least there, though, electoral officials with the INE sanctioned the PRI for its excess campaign spending. 47

In Edomex 55 percent of respondents in the Reforma poll favored legal challenges to the presumed PRI victories, while fewer than 30 percent oppose the ongoing litigation and appeals.

Even if, as expected, the legal challenges fail to overturn previously announced “victories,” the PRI’s brand has suffered greatly because of the relatively competitive elections. The only party more “weakened” by the elections, according to the poll, was the PRD ? perhaps because of its counterintuitive coalition with the conservative PAN. 48 Morena, meanwhile, was the only party considered “fortified” by a plurality of those polled, 35 to 25 percent. The Edomex election generally produced the specter of further deterioration of the PRI.

The paradoxical status of Mexican-US relations further undermines the PRI’s presidential chances next year. President Trump launched his most recent campaign by calling Mexicans “rapists” and “criminals.” Even former PAN president Vicente Fox responded more forcefully than the PRI’s Peña Nieto when Trump insisted that Mexico would pay for a central plank of his campaign – the border wall. 49 The PRI’s finance minister, Luis Videgaray, resigned as the humiliated “architect” of Trump’s boorish bullying of Peña Nieto in 2016, only to return newly empowered as Peña Nieto’s foreign minister. 50

The PRI’s attempts to cozy up to the Trump administration, demonstrated through their co-sponsorship of recent meetings in Cancún and the U.S. Southern Command, or their enthusiastic embrace of rapid NAFTA renegotiation, discredited the party as subservient to the newest neighbor to the north, namely Trump. AMLO, by contrast, filed a formal complaint against the wall with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in March. 51 Finally, according to Reuters, US officials “said Mexico had asked for the negotiations to be completed by the end of the year before the Mexican presidential election heats up,” to avoid benefitting the presidential ambitions of AMLO. 52

More important than the Trump effect, the strong showing by Morena in Edomex bolsters their chances in the 2018 presidential elections. Following the Edomex election, 57 percent of Mexican voters believe the PRI will lose the 2018 elections, while only 34 percent think the embattled party will retain the presidency — which the PRI has lost only twice since its founding in 1929. 53 Indeed, another recent Reforma poll relegated the PRI to third place with only 17 percent of national voters, compared with 23 percent for the PAN and 28 percent for AMLO and Morena. 54

The PRI’s star appears to be rapidly falling. Already last year, the party lost seven of twelve gubernatorial elections. Organizations like #NiUnFraudeMás are unlikely to end their concern or suspend their investigations. The hashtag movement emphasizes Article 6 of the Electoral Code of the State of Mexico, which pledges that “citizens and political parties are co-responsible for the organization, development and monitoring of the electoral process.” 55 The historically competitive Edomex election ensures that the official certification of the results, with the TEEM expected to formally declare Del Mazo governor by August 16, does not represent the end of the struggle for electoral democracy.


1 https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/06/world/americas/mexico-elections-pri-pena-nieto-lopez-obrador.html

2 http://www.upi.com/Defense-News/2004/03/23/Analysis-Corruption-in-Mexico/26871080078886/

3 http://www.animalpolitico.com/2017/06/del-mazo-mas-bajo-pri-edomex/

4 http://niunfraudemas.org/documentos/TercerInforme.pdf pg. 98-9

5 http://www.elfinanciero.com.mx/nacional/computo-distrital-le-da-el-triunfo-a-alfredo-del-mazo-en-el-edomex.html

6 http://niunfraudemas.org/documentos/TercerInforme.pdf pg. 106

7 https://www.economist.com/blogs/americasview/2011/07/state-elections-mexico

8 http://hoyentv.com/2017/06/11/ieem-reporta-participaci-n-del-53-por-ciento-de-votantes.html

http://www.animalpolitico.com/2017/06/del-mazo-mas-bajo-pri-edomex/

9 http://www.animalpolitico.com/2017/06/del-mazo-mas-bajo-pri-edomex/

10 ibid.

11 https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/an-election-in-the-heartland-of-mexicos-ruling-party-shows-where-country-may-be-headed/2017/06/01/4ea4e100-44b2-11e7-8de1-cec59a9bf4b1_story.html?utm_term=.583baf23c714

12 http://segundoenfoque.com/aumentaron-denuncias-de-fraude-en-elecciones-mexicanas-19-354585/

http://niunfraudemas.org/documentos/TercerInforme.pdf pg. 91

13 http://www.reuters.com/article/us-mexico-election-idUSKBN18K0GL

14 http://niunfraudemas.org/documentos/TercerInforme.pdf pg. 69

15 Cited in http://nacla.org/news/2017/06/06/cracks-fortress

16 http://www.sinembargo.mx/03-06-2017/3232283

17 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b5JEvLixKTU&feature=youtu.be and Alex Main

18 http://www.quien.com/espectaculos/2012/05/07/la-profecia-de-atlacomulco-enrique-pena-nieto

https://web.archive.org/web/20090702073953/http://www.exonline.com.mx/diario/noticia/primera/politicanacional/a_la_sombra_de_atlacomulco/469962

19 Cited in https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2017/01/19/mexico-president-pe-nieto-more-unpopular-than-trump/96667458/

20 https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/29/world/americas/veracruz-mexico-reporters-killed.html

21 http://www.milenio.com/politica/elecciones-estado-mexico/morena-desaparecidos-atlacomulco-fiscalia-investigacion-elecciones_estado_de_mexico_0_968903310.html

http://www.excelsior.com.mx/nacional/2017/06/04/1167627

22 http://www.jornada.unam.mx/ultimas/2017/06/04/denuncian-secuestro-de-dos-militantes-de-morena-en-edomex

23 http://nacla.org/news/2017/06/06/cracks-fortress

24 https://internacional.elpais.com/internacional/2017/05/31/mexico/1496200285_716267.html https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TGB6PLEfqrQ

25 Ibid., El País.

26 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cYt4RIpy4r8&feature=youtu.be

27 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sinPa8L3eJs&feature=youtu.be

28 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bHqQQvKYNl8&feature=youtu.be

29 http://niunfraudemas.org/documentos/TercerInforme.pdf pg. 111

30 http://www.proceso.com.mx/472686/ecatepec-municipio-violento-las-mujeres-mexfem

31 http://niunfraudemas.org/documentos/BoletinPrensa_9Junio.pdf

32 http://www.proceso.com.mx/490391/organizacion-niunfraudemas-presentara-dos-juicios-contra-la-eleccion-en-edomex

33 http://niunfraudemas.org/documentos/BoletinPrensa_10Julio.pdf

34 http://www.animalpolitico.com/2017/06/abren-las-casillas-asi-arranco-la-jornada-electoral-cuatro-estados-del-pais/

35 http://pausa.mx/2017/06/06/24975/

36 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Keyn6bm77dA&feature=youtu.be

37 http://aristeguinoticias.com/1106/mexico/no-solo-es-morena-pan-prd-y-pt-tambien-solicitaran-anular-eleccion-en-edomex/ http://www.prd.org.mx/portal/index.php/2-principal/3128-rebaso-del-mazo-tope-de-gastos-de-campana-por-mas-de-48-millones-de-pesos

38 http://www.animalpolitico.com/2017/06/del-mazo-gasto-campana-morena/

http://niunfraudemas.org/documentos/TercerInforme.pdf pg. 81, 92

39 https://twitter.com/JohnMAckerman/status/872583860957196292

40 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zWwCMIi8d1Y&feature=youtu.be

41 http://psn.si/morena-impugnaciones-eleccion-edomex/2017/06/

42 http://www.proceso.com.mx/490923/morena-presenta-45-impugnaciones-contra-eleccion-en-edomex

43 http://www.eluniversal.com.mx/articulo/metropoli/edomex/2017/07/13/tribunal-resolvera-en-20-dias-revocacion-de-impugnaciones

44 http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/09/05/AR2006090500606_pf.html

http://cepr.net/press-center/press-releases/discrepancies-and-lack-of-transparency-mar-mexican-election-results

45 https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jul/07/trump-mexico-border-wall-pena-nieto-g20-summit

46 https://twitter.com/JohnMAckerman/status/877323657080487937

47 http://www.jornada.unam.mx/ultimas/2017/07/18/confirma-el-ine-que-el-pri-gasto-de-mas-en-coahuila

48 https://www.ft.com/content/19c33f58-3dd3-11e7-9d56-25f963e998b2?mhq5j=e2

49 http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/features/donald-mexicans-are-rapists-trump-goes-to-mexico-w437379

50 https://apnews.com/81553f27a3914f2b8ef2c604dda5cb2b/mexico-govt-treasury-minister-resigns-after-trump-visit

51 http://www.newsweek.com/andres-manuel-lopez-obrador-mexico-donald-trump-us-border-wall-568681

52 http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-nafta-trade-mexico-idUSKBN1A70TT

53 https://twitter.com/JohnMAckerman/status/877323657080487937

54 https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mexico-politics-idUSKBN1A80RB

55 http://niunfraudemas.org/documentos/BoletinPrensa_10Julio.pdf

The June 4 governor’s election in the State of Mexico (or Edomex), the most populous state in Mexico, came close to ending the Partido Revolucionario Institucional’s (PRI) nearly nine-decade-long control over the state.

Throughout the campaign and its aftermath, PRI’s illegal election interference, or what the New York Times called “business as usual in the State of Mexico,” 1 was widely documented by independent observers. Even as PRI-controlled election monitors proclaimed their candidate the victor with a slim plurality, evidence of extensive irregularities undermined the results’ legitimacy. The absence of a clear mandate produced a scandal and strengthened the prospects of the leading opposition party ahead of the 2018 presidential elections.

It wasn’t the Partido de Acción Nacional (PAN), the right-wing party that had interrupted the PRI’s grip on the presidency with the elections of Vicente Fox in 2000 and Felipe Calderón in 2006, that threatened PRI’s stranglehold on the state. Rather, a new political force, the Movimiento Regeneración Nacional (Morena), emerged as the most credible challenger to the PRI.

Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the left-wing perennial presidential candidate, formed Morena in 2011 and formally organized it as a political party in early 2014. López Obrador (popularly known as “AMLO”) was previously a member of the Party of the Democratic Revolution (or PRD), and stood as that party’s candidate in two contested and ultimately unsuccessful presidential bids in 2006 and 2012, in which many believe that fraud played a decisive role. While the PRD emerged from the PRI’s left faction in the 1980s, the party recently turned to coalitions with the conservative PAN. Meanwhile, some of the PRD’s leadership has been linked to corruption scandals since at least the early 2000s. 2

In the 2017 elections, the State of Mexico Electoral Institute (IEEM) reported a significant increase in voter turnout to over 6 million people, or 53 percent of eligible voters. In 2011, the PRI candidate won overwhelmingly, with a 46 percent turnout, the year before the PAN’s 12-year interruption of PRI presidencies was halted. In 2005, a year before the PAN again won the presidency in a bitterly contested campaign against AMLO and the PRD, current president Enrique Peña Nieto won the governorship of Edomex with only 42 percent voter participation. 3

The IEEM’s initial official estimates failed to reach their own May 3 protocol of 1,800 voting booths tabulated, with only 1,347 included in the rapid count following the election. 4 Still, early estimates from the Preliminary Election Results Program (PREP) excited Morena supporters with a slim advantage for their candidate, Delfina Gómez, until the final tally days later declared the PRI’s Alfredo del Mazo Maza governor-elect with 33.69 percent, over Gómez’s 30.91 percent. 5 Morena supporters also noted that the National Electoral Institute (INE) had installed voting booths at a much slower pace than required by law, and that while the INE had promised that voting would begin at 8 a.m. and carry on until 6 p.m., by 9:50 a.m. officials had only installed 57 percent of Edomex voting booths. 6

Del Mazo may be the officially declared victor (with extensive irregularities, as we’ll see below) but Gómez and Morena’s rapid surge in the official vote count made it the closest governor’s election in Edomex on record. The incumbent PRI governor won with 61 percent of the vote in 2011, and the currently deeply unpopular President Enrique Peña Nieto, who survived credible allegations of corruption during his presidential campaign, had managed to officially win close to 50 percent of votes back in 2005.

IEEM’s figures depict a margin of about 170,000 votes in Del Mazo’s favor. With no comparable figures available prior to 1993, when “Mexico was still considered more or less a one-party state,” 7 it is likely that the Edomex elections were the most competitive in the state’s history. 8

Indeed, Animal Político describes the Edomex 2017 results as a “collapse” for the PRI, and “unprecedented growth” for the infant party, Morena. 9 In raw vote numbers, the PRI lost a million supporters, about a third of its 3 million vote total in 2011. When taken as a proportion of the election results, however, Del Mazo’s campaign results represent an abject failure. The 2011 PRI candidate had won with 62 percent of the vote, whereas Del Mazo managed 33 percent. 10

Fraud: Accusations and Evidence

Accusations of fraud marred the Edomex elections well before a single vote was cast. For example, the Washington Post reported that eligible voters were offered cash discounts from the PRI at local shops if they traded in their voting credentials and refrained from voting, a clear violation of Mexican election laws. 11 The Argentine outlet Segundo Enfoque and others reported that some voters traded in their electoral credentials for debit cards that would receive post-election deposits of 2,000 Mexican pesos, or about $100. 12

Reuters quoted PRI-supporter Maria de los Remedios Gonzales’ cynical logic in accepting PRI pamphlets that promised cash payouts should Del Mazo win: “Better the devil you know …. At the end of the day, it’s our money, and they give us a bit back.” 13 On the day of the election, independent observers reported that voters received burner phones to take into the ballot box and provide photographic evidence that they had voted for Del Mazo or other PRI candidates as part of a quid pro quo. 14

The New York Times is probably justified in identifying this kind of overt interference in the democratic process as “usual,” but as pre-election polls showed a tightening race, the tainted atmosphere of electoral sleight of hand took on a more blunt, violent air. For example, authorities have yet to identify who left the dozens of pigs’ heads stacked menacingly in front of the Morena state headquarters on June 3. 15 Pigs’ heads were also left in front of two other Morena offices in Tlalnepantla and Ixtapaluca-Chalco. 16

International and local observers documented a pattern of violent intimidation toward opponents to PRI rule. Alex Main, Senior Associate for International Policy at CEPR, participated in an independent investigation of the election proceedings in early June. Commenting at a joint press conference in Toluca, Main relayed that an observer from the civil society organization #NiUnFraudeMás, Soledad, had received threats: after an anonymous phone caller asked whether Soledad supported Morena, the unidentified person threatened her and her family with murder.

Main also received reports of intimidation of independent observers in the zone of Ahuizotla. Observers reported illegal busing of voters and, after taking photos of apparent PRI operatives, received death threats from an armed man near voting booth 2866. 17

Most alarming were disappearances of Morena party members. The PRI spokesman for Edomex and other officials confirmed at least two disappearances, one of a Morena official in Metepec, and another of the Morena coordinator in Atlacomulco, the area where Peña Nieto began his rise within the PRI, reportedly as part of the infamous Grupo Atlacomulco. 18 Peña Nieto had established local alliances with his uncle and former Edomex governor Arturo Montiel of Grupo Atlacomulco, before he became governor of Edomex and later head of state. The president, who is distantly related to his party’s Edomex candidate, currently boasts an approval rating of just 12 percent. 19

The spokesman assured the public: “Since the morning, I have been attentive … working with both the State Security Commission and the office of the Attorney General.” But the Peña Nieto administration’s documented record of near-universal impunity in the many disappearances of journalists, political figures, and others raises considerable doubt as to the successful resolution of these kidnappings. 20 Cristina “N.” was witness to the disappearance of her husband Óscar Juárez Cárdenez, the Atlacomulco representative. She saw two cars arrive from her balcony and later found her disappeared husband’s T-shirt on the street, tattered and blood stained. 21 Mexico City-based La Jornada also reported that state police forcibly removed about 20 Morena party members from their hotel rooms in Toluca on the discredited pretext of a bomb threat. 22

Much of Main and other observers’ testimony related to the municipality of Naucalpán, particularly the town of Chimalpa, where they witnessed physical threats and also non-violent obstacles and impediments to a fair election. The PRI’s ground operations included a system by which voters would receive their benefit for voting PRI under the guise of breakfast or a friendly gathering at nearby houses.

Christy Thornton, another election observer and professor of Latin American history at Rowan University, defined the so-called “casa amiga” program as a fraud “where PRI operatives coordinate various kinds of voter coercion, from outright buying of votes to incentivizing individuals to bring five or ten others with them to the polls.” 23 As an example of this systematic bribery, the observers witnessed eligible voters, “all women of very humble social condition,” who were apparently returning from voting booth 3002 to queue outside of a nearby house with a known PRI operative inside.

While illegal, the casa amiga and desayuno (breakfast) vote buying programs reflect the PRI’s broader campaign strategy of targeted patronage to affect election outcomes. Del Mazo campaigned on the “pink salary,” a promise to distribute over $100 every other month to more than 500,000 poor women. Del Mazo’s campaign manager framed the policy as “allowing the man to have the opportunity to leave to work to produce an income for his family.” In one of Del Mazo’s antiseptic campaign ads, the silver-haired scion quipped “they prepare breakfast … they deserve a dream.” 24

Spain’s El País reported pink cards were distributed as PRI “campaign objects/materials” before June 4 around the State of Mexico, and reminded readers of present PRI governor Ávila’s 2011 campaign “trick” of promising pharmaceutical aid, in the form of a green card, in return for a PRI vote. Noemí Romero, who lives in Edomex, said that when she and her mother went to the pharmacy after the 2011 election ended overwhelmingly in Ávila’s favor, the clerk laughed and asked why they would believe PRI’s promises. “We wanted the ground to swallow us up in shame. This pink salary, it is the same as the green card, it’s the same, they only changed the color.” 25 In 2017, however, #NiUnFraudeMás documented payouts in the form of pink debit cards.

While it is not illegal to promise social benefits for everyone as part of an election campaign pledge, the recent experience in Edomex included widespread illegal vote-buying techniques, as well as harassment, and even forced disappearances that appear to be campaign-related.

According to the advocacy campaign for electoral transparency, #NiUnFraudeMás, the seven most common forms of interference were:

“pressure on state and municipal government workers, transport workers, health workers, teachers and police; psychological terrorism; busing, voter coercion and vote-buying; violation of the campaign ban just prior to election day; exceeding campaign spending limits; inconsistencies between the collection of election day minutes in the official record, the rapid count, PREP and the district count; and deficiencies in electoral organization and training.”

Finally, the third report from #NiUnFraudeMás has links to video evidence of police intimidation and coercion on behalf of the PRI; police violence against journalist Alan García of the newspaper El Gráfico; 26 an attack against Morena representative Rodrigo Abdalá in Atlacomulco; and the intimidation of independent observers.

There were also less violent forms of interference: photo evidence of the pink salary system in quid pro quo form; PRI propaganda and misinformation on public transport; an apparent admission of illegal busing from multiple PRI operators; 27 illegal PRI counts of voters in front of voting booth 2266; 28 arbitrary elimination of votes in Toluca; 29 and insufficient ballots in densely populated areas.

There was an especially high presence of reported irregularities in the municipalities of Naucalpán and Ecatepec, where the rate of femicides sets another poor record. 30 The two zones tied with 39 reported electoral irregularities of a total of 601 in the 125 municipalities overall.

In sum, #NiUnFraudeMás described the PRI’s overall electoral blueprint as “a strategy of psychological warfare” and to create “fear [among] the militants and representatives of Morena and [within] the entire society.” 31

In mobilization against the thoroughly documented irregularities and fraud, the organization led by artists, academics, and activists called for a full recount, and, if necessary, a complete repeat of the gubernatorial election itself. #NiUnFraudeMás members also demanded the resignation of the PRI-controlled election counselors of the IEEM and the INE, among other officials. 32

#NiUnFraudeMás’s most recent press bulletin shores up the constitutional bonafides needed to demand both a “totally autonomous and independent citizen recount,” as well as “the nullification of the eventual ‘triumph’ of Alfredo del Mazo,” citing the Mexican constitution to bolster its case. Its July 10 press release notes that Article 6 affords Mexican citizens the right to “free access to diverse and timely information,” and Article 41 guarantees the right to “free, authentic and periodic elections.” 33

Institutional Investigations and Compromises

La Fiscalía Especializada Para la Atención de Delitos Electorales (FEPADE), the federal agency responsible for investigating voter fraud, reported evidence of interference before June 4. The agency at first refrained from detaining drivers of illegal busing operations, intercepted en route from the Plaza Américas in Naucalpán to Nezahualcóyotl, but without passengers, on a possible practice run. FEPADE promised an investigation. 34

Multiple reports emerged of an election day mobilization that included 3,500 PRI-voting bus riders on 70 buses, and that FEPADE arrested two bus drivers involved. Two days after the election, FEPADE announced that there were at least 192 outstanding arrest warrants, primarily for alleged vote purchasing and reported that most of the complaints filed related to “fraud in the vote counting.” 35 For example, one video uploaded to social media uncovered an instance of an IEEM official apparently inflating the PRI vote tally through officials inaccurately transmitting vote totals from one to another, verbally changing the results. 36

Both Morena and the PRD lodged an official complaint with the INE, arguing against the elections’ legitimacy because Del Mazo and the PRI exceeded spending limits by as much as 40 percent. 37 Horacio Duarte, a representative of Morena, said that someone close to Del Mazo and the PRI anonymously submitted folders with financial papers that purport to document the excess expenditure. The Morena representative also claimed that the evidence was derived from the “internal accounting system” of the PRI. 38

While the INE hastily refused a full recount, they did conduct a partial one, potentially to save face. Some of the results strongly suggest both fraud and a cover-up. John Ackerman, a researcher and law professor at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, observed a recount in Naucalpán de Juaréz, at voting booth 2836 in which, he said, Del Mazo’s vote total fell from 640 to 81 votes. Ackerman commented in a tweet with photographic evidence: “no wonder they don’t want to open the other ballots!” 39 During the vote count, the INE president of district 32 attempted to remove Ackerman from the premises with the use of police, while defending the democratic legitimacy of the process: “There are no delinquents here,” he said. 40

A week after the scandal-ridden election, AMLO formally appealed to the Tribunal Electoral del Estado de México (TEEM) with 45 legal challenges, one for each district in Edomex. He called for the Tribunal to “clean up the election” and declare Delfina Gómez the next governor of Edomex.

AMLO further accused the PRI of buying votes and filling ballot boxes “with an operation led and directed by Enrique Peña Nieto,” who is also the distant cousin of Del Mazo. 41 (Del Mazo’s family lineage is a legacy in Edomex, where both his father and grandfather served as PRI governors.)

AMLO went on to insist that, if the Tribunal rejects Morena’s challenges, the party would appeal to the national Electoral Tribunal. His social media speech averred: México “is a democratic republic, not a monarchy.” 42

According to the IEEM, Morena was not the only political party to challenge the results of the historically competitive June 4 election. The conservative PAN party also submitted appeals in 36 of the 45 electoral districts at play in Edomex, and the PRD challenged the results in 39 districts. All three parties accuse the PRI of federal interference and election fraud, citing irregularities in the district counts and in voter registration. In spite of IEEM’s June 9 announcement of victory for the PRI, the bellwether election may not be resolved until TEEM’s self-imposed deadline of August 16. 43

AMLO emphasized that if the TEEM rules in favor of the status quo, Morena will still appeal before the Mexican federal tribunal to annul the elections. AMLO attempted this level of legal appeal in the aftermath of the 2006 presidential race, and urged his supporters to occupy Mexico City’s Zócalo plaza for two months, but the tribunal ruled unanimously against the then PRD candidate despite documented irregularities. 44 Next year, Mexico again holds presidential elections, and Edomex was not the only suspicious electoral event of the year, not to speak of accusations of electoral espionage by Peña Nieto. 45

Conclusion

Just a fortnight after the election, opinion polling revealed massive discontent with the electoral authorities. In a national poll by the Mexico City newspaper Reforma, just 37 percent thought the INE to be prepared to organize the 2018 presidential elections. Nearly 70 percent of those polled agreed there was fraud in the Edomex elections, while only 14 percent believed in the elections’ legitimacy. The same poll found 60 percent of Mexicans thought the northern state of Coahuila’s gubernatorial elections were fraudulent, while only 10 percent maintained confidence in their “cleanliness.” 46 At least there, though, electoral officials with the INE sanctioned the PRI for its excess campaign spending. 47

In Edomex 55 percent of respondents in the Reforma poll favored legal challenges to the presumed PRI victories, while fewer than 30 percent oppose the ongoing litigation and appeals.

Even if, as expected, the legal challenges fail to overturn previously announced “victories,” the PRI’s brand has suffered greatly because of the relatively competitive elections. The only party more “weakened” by the elections, according to the poll, was the PRD ? perhaps because of its counterintuitive coalition with the conservative PAN. 48 Morena, meanwhile, was the only party considered “fortified” by a plurality of those polled, 35 to 25 percent. The Edomex election generally produced the specter of further deterioration of the PRI.

The paradoxical status of Mexican-US relations further undermines the PRI’s presidential chances next year. President Trump launched his most recent campaign by calling Mexicans “rapists” and “criminals.” Even former PAN president Vicente Fox responded more forcefully than the PRI’s Peña Nieto when Trump insisted that Mexico would pay for a central plank of his campaign – the border wall. 49 The PRI’s finance minister, Luis Videgaray, resigned as the humiliated “architect” of Trump’s boorish bullying of Peña Nieto in 2016, only to return newly empowered as Peña Nieto’s foreign minister. 50

The PRI’s attempts to cozy up to the Trump administration, demonstrated through their co-sponsorship of recent meetings in Cancún and the U.S. Southern Command, or their enthusiastic embrace of rapid NAFTA renegotiation, discredited the party as subservient to the newest neighbor to the north, namely Trump. AMLO, by contrast, filed a formal complaint against the wall with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in March. 51 Finally, according to Reuters, US officials “said Mexico had asked for the negotiations to be completed by the end of the year before the Mexican presidential election heats up,” to avoid benefitting the presidential ambitions of AMLO. 52

More important than the Trump effect, the strong showing by Morena in Edomex bolsters their chances in the 2018 presidential elections. Following the Edomex election, 57 percent of Mexican voters believe the PRI will lose the 2018 elections, while only 34 percent think the embattled party will retain the presidency — which the PRI has lost only twice since its founding in 1929. 53 Indeed, another recent Reforma poll relegated the PRI to third place with only 17 percent of national voters, compared with 23 percent for the PAN and 28 percent for AMLO and Morena. 54

The PRI’s star appears to be rapidly falling. Already last year, the party lost seven of twelve gubernatorial elections. Organizations like #NiUnFraudeMás are unlikely to end their concern or suspend their investigations. The hashtag movement emphasizes Article 6 of the Electoral Code of the State of Mexico, which pledges that “citizens and political parties are co-responsible for the organization, development and monitoring of the electoral process.” 55 The historically competitive Edomex election ensures that the official certification of the results, with the TEEM expected to formally declare Del Mazo governor by August 16, does not represent the end of the struggle for electoral democracy.


1 https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/06/world/americas/mexico-elections-pri-pena-nieto-lopez-obrador.html

2 http://www.upi.com/Defense-News/2004/03/23/Analysis-Corruption-in-Mexico/26871080078886/

3 http://www.animalpolitico.com/2017/06/del-mazo-mas-bajo-pri-edomex/

4 http://niunfraudemas.org/documentos/TercerInforme.pdf pg. 98-9

5 http://www.elfinanciero.com.mx/nacional/computo-distrital-le-da-el-triunfo-a-alfredo-del-mazo-en-el-edomex.html

6 http://niunfraudemas.org/documentos/TercerInforme.pdf pg. 106

7 https://www.economist.com/blogs/americasview/2011/07/state-elections-mexico

8 http://hoyentv.com/2017/06/11/ieem-reporta-participaci-n-del-53-por-ciento-de-votantes.html

http://www.animalpolitico.com/2017/06/del-mazo-mas-bajo-pri-edomex/

9 http://www.animalpolitico.com/2017/06/del-mazo-mas-bajo-pri-edomex/

10 ibid.

11 https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/an-election-in-the-heartland-of-mexicos-ruling-party-shows-where-country-may-be-headed/2017/06/01/4ea4e100-44b2-11e7-8de1-cec59a9bf4b1_story.html?utm_term=.583baf23c714

12 http://segundoenfoque.com/aumentaron-denuncias-de-fraude-en-elecciones-mexicanas-19-354585/

http://niunfraudemas.org/documentos/TercerInforme.pdf pg. 91

13 http://www.reuters.com/article/us-mexico-election-idUSKBN18K0GL

14 http://niunfraudemas.org/documentos/TercerInforme.pdf pg. 69

15 Cited in http://nacla.org/news/2017/06/06/cracks-fortress

16 http://www.sinembargo.mx/03-06-2017/3232283

17 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b5JEvLixKTU&feature=youtu.be and Alex Main

18 http://www.quien.com/espectaculos/2012/05/07/la-profecia-de-atlacomulco-enrique-pena-nieto

https://web.archive.org/web/20090702073953/http://www.exonline.com.mx/diario/noticia/primera/politicanacional/a_la_sombra_de_atlacomulco/469962

19 Cited in https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2017/01/19/mexico-president-pe-nieto-more-unpopular-than-trump/96667458/

20 https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/29/world/americas/veracruz-mexico-reporters-killed.html

21 http://www.milenio.com/politica/elecciones-estado-mexico/morena-desaparecidos-atlacomulco-fiscalia-investigacion-elecciones_estado_de_mexico_0_968903310.html

http://www.excelsior.com.mx/nacional/2017/06/04/1167627

22 http://www.jornada.unam.mx/ultimas/2017/06/04/denuncian-secuestro-de-dos-militantes-de-morena-en-edomex

23 http://nacla.org/news/2017/06/06/cracks-fortress

24 https://internacional.elpais.com/internacional/2017/05/31/mexico/1496200285_716267.html https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TGB6PLEfqrQ

25 Ibid., El País.

26 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cYt4RIpy4r8&feature=youtu.be

27 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sinPa8L3eJs&feature=youtu.be

28 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bHqQQvKYNl8&feature=youtu.be

29 http://niunfraudemas.org/documentos/TercerInforme.pdf pg. 111

30 http://www.proceso.com.mx/472686/ecatepec-municipio-violento-las-mujeres-mexfem

31 http://niunfraudemas.org/documentos/BoletinPrensa_9Junio.pdf

32 http://www.proceso.com.mx/490391/organizacion-niunfraudemas-presentara-dos-juicios-contra-la-eleccion-en-edomex

33 http://niunfraudemas.org/documentos/BoletinPrensa_10Julio.pdf

34 http://www.animalpolitico.com/2017/06/abren-las-casillas-asi-arranco-la-jornada-electoral-cuatro-estados-del-pais/

35 http://pausa.mx/2017/06/06/24975/

36 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Keyn6bm77dA&feature=youtu.be

37 http://aristeguinoticias.com/1106/mexico/no-solo-es-morena-pan-prd-y-pt-tambien-solicitaran-anular-eleccion-en-edomex/ http://www.prd.org.mx/portal/index.php/2-principal/3128-rebaso-del-mazo-tope-de-gastos-de-campana-por-mas-de-48-millones-de-pesos

38 http://www.animalpolitico.com/2017/06/del-mazo-gasto-campana-morena/

http://niunfraudemas.org/documentos/TercerInforme.pdf pg. 81, 92

39 https://twitter.com/JohnMAckerman/status/872583860957196292

40 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zWwCMIi8d1Y&feature=youtu.be

41 http://psn.si/morena-impugnaciones-eleccion-edomex/2017/06/

42 http://www.proceso.com.mx/490923/morena-presenta-45-impugnaciones-contra-eleccion-en-edomex

43 http://www.eluniversal.com.mx/articulo/metropoli/edomex/2017/07/13/tribunal-resolvera-en-20-dias-revocacion-de-impugnaciones

44 http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/09/05/AR2006090500606_pf.html

http://cepr.net/press-center/press-releases/discrepancies-and-lack-of-transparency-mar-mexican-election-results

45 https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jul/07/trump-mexico-border-wall-pena-nieto-g20-summit

46 https://twitter.com/JohnMAckerman/status/877323657080487937

47 http://www.jornada.unam.mx/ultimas/2017/07/18/confirma-el-ine-que-el-pri-gasto-de-mas-en-coahuila

48 https://www.ft.com/content/19c33f58-3dd3-11e7-9d56-25f963e998b2?mhq5j=e2

49 http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/features/donald-mexicans-are-rapists-trump-goes-to-mexico-w437379

50 https://apnews.com/81553f27a3914f2b8ef2c604dda5cb2b/mexico-govt-treasury-minister-resigns-after-trump-visit

51 http://www.newsweek.com/andres-manuel-lopez-obrador-mexico-donald-trump-us-border-wall-568681

52 http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-nafta-trade-mexico-idUSKBN1A70TT

53 https://twitter.com/JohnMAckerman/status/877323657080487937

54 https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mexico-politics-idUSKBN1A80RB

55 http://niunfraudemas.org/documentos/BoletinPrensa_10Julio.pdf

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