Local immigrants keep close eye on disputed election in Mexico

Rachael Scarborough King
Star Staff Writer
Published: July 6, 2006

As some voters took to the streets in Mexico City to protest perceived corruption in the presidential election, it was business as usual at local Mexican-owned shops and restaurants Wednesday.

Mexican immigrants at La Frontera restaurant and La Flor de México markets in Oxford said that while they were not able to cast absentee ballots, they and their friends and family here closely follow the political situation in Mexico.

In an election reminiscent of the 2000 U.S. presidential election, both of the main presidential candidates in Mexico have claimed victory. The Federal Electoral Institute, or I.F.E, has started a nationwide recount of the ballots.

The tally currently favors the more conservative candidate, Felipe Calder-n, but his opponent, Andrés Manuel L-pez Obrador, says the recount will prove that he won.

José Ricardo Gonzalés, who moved to Oxford from Mexico five months ago, said he doesn’t believe the recount will determine a clear victor.

“Up to today the difference between the votes is about 1 percent,” Gonzalés said. “There is not going to be a clear winner because the difference, as I said, is minimal.”

Gonzalés said the Mexican community in Calhoun County is fairly evenly split in support of the two candidates. He added that he believes the Mexican electoral system is improving, but that it is not as strong as the system in the U.S.

“I think that the electoral system (in Mexico) has deficiencies. If they would invest more in the I.F.E., they would have a better structure to guarantee that the votes would be respected,” Gonzalés said. “But it is difficult because it is a very large country, and there are very isolated communities.”

Other local immigrants use stronger language in describing the Mexican electoral process.

“In Mexico the elections are corrupt, very corrupt,” said Guadalupe, an employee at La Flor de México who asked that her last name be withheld. Still, she added that she thinks Mexico is “more or less” a strong democracy.

“In truth, yes (the elections are corrupt),” said Adrien Andrade, an employee at another Flor de México store. “I think that the candidates should carry out what they are saying.”

Andrade said he doesn’t think Mexico’s electoral problems reflect poorly on the Mexican community in Alabama.

The main issue in the election, Andrade said, is job creation and growth. Guadalupe agreed, saying that she emigrated in 2002 because she couldn’t find work in Mexico.

“What is important to me is whether the new president is going to help Mexico, because the other president (Vicente Fox) didn’t do anything for Mexico,” Guadalupe said.

Gonzalés, the waiter at La Frontera, said support for right-wing candidate Calder-n, who is in the same party as Fox, stems from the relative economic stability of Fox’s presidency.

“The main issues for people are security, jobs – but well-paid jobs – housing, and that prices are maintained,” he said.

He added that what is most important for the country’s future is that the eventual loser does not attempt to undermine the voting process.

“They have to respect the results of the election and not say that it is a corrupt election,” Gonzalés said. “The loser has to respect the decision, and he will respect it.”

Silvia, a cashier at one of the Flor de México markets who came to the United States last year, said she does not follow Mexican politics but that it is a topic of debate for her compatriots.

“There are many people here that pay attention (to the politics in Mexico),” Silvia said. “We want to see our country progress.”

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