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Mexicans abroad vote for reform

Enrique PenNiewaves supporters PRI headquarters Mexico City July 2 day after he was declared winner Mexico's presidental race.  |

Enrique Pena Nieto waves to supporters at PRI headquarters in Mexico City on July 2, a day after he was declared the winner in Mexico's presidental race. | Christian Palma~AP

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Updated: September 17, 2012 12:55PM

For six weeks, Mexico has been immersed in a dramatic legal probe to determine whether its July 1 presidential election was valid. Thousands of Mexicans have poured into the streets to protest an alleged massive electoral fraud that allowed Enrique Pena Nieto, the candidate of the Revolutionary Institutional Party, to win.

Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, candidate of the Democratic Revolutionary Party, accused Pena Nieto of vote-buying, illegal campaign funding and forcibly skewing the media coverage. Pena Nieto and PRI deny any wrongdoing.

A partial recount by the Federal Election Institute confirmed that Pena Nieto received 38.21 percent of the vote; Lopez Obra­dor, 31.59 percent, and conservative candidate Josefina Vazquez Mota, 25.59. An electoral tribunal has until Sept. 6 to ratify or reverse the results.

While Mexico awaits the outcome, one fact is certain: Pena Nieto lost decisively among Mexicans who live outside their country — most in the United States.

Mexicans abroad cast 40,777 votes. Vazquez Mota got 40 percent; Lopez Obrador, 37 percent, and Pena Nieto, 23 percent.

Mexicans living outside their country continue to oppose the infamous PRI, the political machine that governed Mexico for 71 years. They blame PRI for their having to leave the country because of poverty and a lack of opportunities, even as party favorites made fortunes through rampant corruption.

Obviously, the number of Mexicans who voted from abroad is a fraction of the national vote. That’s mainly because the Mexican Congress has yet to approve reforms that would allow nearly 4 million Mexican expatriates to obtain voting cards where they live.

Most expatriates still can’t vote because they’re required to go to Mexico to get their voting card, but they can’t travel because they are living illegally in the United States.

Mexican expatriates are not easy prey for the kind of trickery the PRI was accused of in this election. Giving away gift cards in exchange for votes, as the PRI is charged with doing, would not fly on this side of the border.

On American soil, the PRI could not control the unions to force their Mexican members to vote in its favor and they could not push a major TV network to run favorable coverage for a candidate, as media giant Televisa did for Pena Nieto.

“The PRI used the tactics of old to buy votes,” said Claudia Lucero, who works for the University of Illinois at Chicago and voted in the election. “And a media campaign favored Pena Nieto for years before the election.”

Many Mexicans fear that the PRI, out of power for 12 years, has come back to rule Mexico again through cronyism, corruption, ties with drug traffickers, coercion and selective violence. A return to the authoritarian and corrupt rule of the past would be a terrible outcome for Mexico, the United States and the region.

If Pena Nieto is ultimately declared the winner, it will be up to him and the PRI to prove that the “dinosaurs,” as the corrupted old guard is called, are not back in the presidential house of Los Pinos.

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