Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Gift Cards for votes generate buying crush in Mexico

By Olga Roderiguez, The Associated Press, in Globe and Mail, July 3, 2012
Thousands of people rushed to stores Tuesday to redeem pre-paid gift cards they said were given to them previously by the party that won Mexico’s presidency, inflaming accusations that the weekend election was marred by widespread vote-buying.

At least a few cardholders were angry, complaining that they didn’t get as much as promised or that their cards weren’t working. Neighbours at one store in a poor neighbourhood on the outskirts of Mexico City said the unusually large crowds prevented them from doing their daily shopping.
Some people shopping at the store said that they were told the cards would be valid only during the two days after Sunday’s election and that they had waited to cash them in until Tuesday because the store was packed Monday.

Under Mexican election law, giving voters gifts is not a crime unless the gift is conditioned on a certain vote or meant to influence a vote. However, the cost of such gifts must be reported, and cannot exceed campaign spending limits. Violations are usually punished with fines, but generally aren’t considered grounds for annulling an election.
Some of the people lined up to use gift cards said they got them for supporting the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), whose Enrique Pena Nieto won Sunday’s presidential election, according to the preliminary official vote count. Some wore red T-shirts and baseball caps or carried tote bags with Mr. Pena Nieto’s name printed in white.
Maria Salazar, a 20-year-old university student, came with her 70-year-old father, Antonio Salazar, to cash three cards.
“They gave us the cards in the name of the PRI and Rep. Hector Pedroza [a PRI congressional candidate], and they said they were counting on our vote,” Ms. Salazar said outside one store, as she carried plastic shopping bags packed with toilet paper, cooking oil, rice, saltine crackers and instant noodle soups.
In another time, in another place, we used to hear stories, in Canada, that whichever party lugged more alcohol to the First Nations reserve would get the votes of the people on that reserve. While that was an overt story of blatant racism, it was also the 'way politics was done' in parts of Canada...and on reflection, it is little wonder our politics today is in such shambles.
Bribery, voter suppression, robo-calls, gift cards as the new and plastic form of bribery...using the names of the dead attached to different people to pad the vote...these are all part of the small and petty agenda of desperate politicians. On the ledger, as monstrous, is the U.S. Supreme Court case known as Citizens United, which permitted trainloads of cash "as evidence of free speech" on behalf of political candidates, provided that cash flows into what are called "super-pacs". Now there is a distinction without a difference. Steering the money into super-pacs, as a way to keep the money at arm's length from the candidate, does not negate the huge impact that money can and does have on behalf of that candidate.
Mexico is awash in the blood of drug cartels, all of it shed in "drug wars" designed to feed the U.S. insatiable appetite for illicit drugs, and and to profit those who take the risks to feed that appetite.
If the rule of law is to be supported by the politics of bribery and buying votes, through direct or indirect methods, then how can the people have confidence in either the law or the source of the laws, the legislatures where they are passed.
Apparently, Mexico is also awash in plastic gift cards, given to voters to "encourage" them to vote for the PRI, whose candidate just happened to win the presidential election on the weekend. Surprise!!
So, since money motivates both drug cartels and political parties, at the expense of something we used to call "the public good," what is the difference between the groups and how does one group control the other?
Monkey see...monkey do!!!

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