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Some Skeptical of Mexico Results : Some Local Emigres Aren't Recognizing Zedillo's Victory Yet. His Backers, On the Other Hand, Praise His Win as 'Continuity of Progress'

August 28, 1994|SIMON ROMERO | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

As the final tally shows Ernesto Zedillo as the winner of Mexico's presidential election, some Mexican citizens residing in Los An geles remained skeptical last week about the long-ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party's (PRI) victory.

"We're not recognizing anyone's victory yet," said Saul Samaniego, a local official with the opposition Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD). "We're in constant contact with our companeros in Mexico City, and they haven't recognized anything either."

Cuauhtemoc Cardenas, the PRD's presidential candidate, asserted last week that the Aug. 21 election was the most fraudulent in Mexican history.

In the southern state of Chiapas, where rebels from the Zapatista National Liberation Army staged an uprising New Year's Day, public demonstrations last week accused the PRI of fraud. Similar protests were held by PRD supporters in the capital of Mexico City.

The heightened concern expressed by some local Mexicans interested in the election contrasted with the lack of sentiment many in the area felt toward the entire event.

No large-scale protests have been planned in Los Angeles, Samaniego said.

"We're waiting to hear what Cuauhtemoc and the others in Mexico City decide to do," said Samaniego, who has been affiliated with the PRD since its conception in 1988.

Preliminary reports from at least three American groups monitoring the elections were contradictory. Global Exchange and Grassroots International, two groups that were among the first foreigners authorized to witness a Mexican election, reported widespread vote fraud by the ruling party. Other observers, such as the delegates sponsored by the National Democratic Institute, said the vote was Mexico's cleanest and fairest.

According to watchdog groups from both the United States and Mexico, there was a "significant" shortage of ballots at special voting booths for people living outside their city of origin, and at one-third of the precincts monitored, observers reported procedures to guard secrecy were lax.

"These accusations of fraud are overstated," said Miguel Escobar, the media liaison with the Mexican Consulate. "It was a clean election with a very high turnout." Escobar said about 75% of those eligible in Mexico cast votes, the highest in Mexico's history.

Many local emigres were glued to Spanish-language television and radio news reports last week for election news because, for the first time, they were allowed to vote at booths in border cities.

Antonio Moreno, the director of a pro-PRI committee that receives candidates when they visit Los Angeles, said that voting opportunity was evidence of the PRI's growing commitment to democracy.

"It was a jubilant experience: There were so many different people voting and the best party won," said Moreno, who cast his vote in Tijuana. "Zedillo means continuity of progress, continuity of the same policies that made Mexico grow in the last six years."

Moreno, who owns a Downtown tire shop, said he might return to Mexico now since he feels more optimistic about Mexico's future.

While standing under a shade tree in front of the Mexican Consulate near MacArthur Park on Thursday, Amalia Rodriguez was fatalistic in her commentary: "How could they say these elections were clean, when the winners are the same bandits as ever?"

The 75-year-old East Los Angeles housewife said she was unable to vote because the polls in Tijuana were too far away.

If the PRD's Cardenas would have won, she said, she would have returned to her native state of Michoacan.

Regardless of the vote, Irma Montoya, 26, said she won't return to Mexico because life here is easier for single women.

Montoya, who has lived in Pico-Union since 1983, said she learned at the Mexican Consulate that she was eligible to vote. She traveled to Tijuana on the eve of the election with 11 others in a van, leaving her three young American-born children with her ex-husband. The group spent the night in the border town and voted first thing the next morning in one of eight polling places set up there for Mexicans living outside the country.

Montoya said she also voted for the PRI, but for a different reason: "My heart lies with the PAN (National Action Party), but I thought that if another party won, there would be violence."

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