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Let Mexico's Voters Be Heard

The government is wrong to resist presence of poll watchers

March 30, 1997

Last year, Mexico's political parties decided to establish an independent Federal Electoral Institute with the authority to rule on election matters, including the sanctity of the polling place. Now, less than four months before congressional elections and the first vote for an elected governor of Mexico City, the federal government is wrongly injecting itself into the process.

In a glaring intrusion, the Mexican Foreign Ministry has blocked a European Union program to fund the private Mexican Academy of Human Rights to the tune of $400,000 in training and support for Mexican poll watchers for the June 6 election. This sudden and arbitrary decision reinforces suspicions that the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party is uncertain that it can win a clean and transparent election and intends to take every step it can, including tampering with the polling place, to assure a victory.

Such an intent would come as no surprise to Mexicans, for the PRI has rightly been accused of rigging elections for the past 68 years to maintain its hold on national power. When will the government back its promises of democracy with deeds? In clean elections, everyone wins, even the ruling party in these changing times.

Foreign Minister Jose Angel Gurria should keep his hands off the electoral process. His argument that European support for poll watchers is tantamount to foreign intervention is nonsense. If that were the case why were other international organizations, including the United Nations, allowed to contribute almost $1.2 million to the same cause in the 1994 election, which kept the PRI in power? That election has been hailed as one of the cleanest ever held in Mexico.

Let the Human Rights Academy receive the European Union funds and use them to help protect the integrity of Mexican polls, whichever party wins. The PRI should use its power and resources to develop programs that the electorate supports, not to stifle democracy in the crib of the polling place.

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