Mexicans protest electoral changes
Demonstrators march against the electoral changes proposed by Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and in support of the National Electoral Institute in Mexico City in early November. REUTERS/Luis Cortes

Next door Mexico is teetering on the edge of returning to what many observers consider the most oppressive form of government — a Soviet-style one party dictatorship. 

The fall of the Soviet Union was inevitable after the Berlin Wall came down, and Mexico’s 72-year-long corrupt semi-dictatorship was destined to fall to Vicente Fox and the modern conservative Partido Acción Nacional in 2000.

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Fox had run away with the election for governor of Guanajuato state in 1995. He then went on to win the presidency in 2000, a win that buried the seven-decade dictatorship of the Partido Institucional Revolucionario, or PRI.

During that campaign, I was the only Hispanic talk show host on a major station in Southern California. I gleefully plugged Fox on my show by beginning and ending with his campaign chant: “Corruption is the PRI — the PRI is Corruption.”

On election night in July of 2000 I was glued to a Tijuana TV station owned and managed by billionaire PRI stalwart. Nevertheless, the reporters at the national electoral headquarters breathlessly announced Fox’s lead every few minutes. 

Then — dramatically — Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo came on television  to congratulate Fox on winning the presidency. It was over. The lifelong vote thieves of the PRI couldn’t steal the election as they had done since 1930 by lying about the outcome. Yale-educated Zedillo ended the dictatorship by simply congratulating Vicente Fox. In my view, Zedillo is a hero.

Zedillo’s congratulatory announcement wasn’t a figment of his imagination. It was based on the counting of votes by the then 10-year-old national elections organization — the Federal Electoral Institute — that was independent of the government. It staged the national election and counted the votes. People trusted the organization. It has run elections ever since. 

Despite Fox’s ascendency to the presidency, leftover PRI crooks were thriving in the bureaucracy, the judiciary and in certain executive offices, notably in Mexico City, where Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador was mayor.

Fox tried to fire the neo-communist AMLO from his job but Lopez Obrador managed, with the help of crooked PRI-appointed judges and the ever-present uniquely Mexican injunction, the “amparo,” to fend off Fox’s efforts.

From the mayor’s office in Mexico City, AMLO ran for president in the 2006 campaign against Felipe Calderon, a former Fox cabinet appointee.

AMLO and Calderon were practically tied at the end of vote counting. AMLO charged corruption of the vote and made hundreds of allegations of vote stealing and false vote reporting. Like his contemporary, Donald Trump, he claimed to have won because he led in national vote counting at the beginning. The later change in the lead was, as Trump claimed, supposedly absolute proof the election was stolen.

How, AMLO and Trump asked, could they have lost when they led in vote tabulation at the beginning? In Trump’s case it was late mail ballots. In AMLO’s case it was the lengthy vote count from millions of people scattered throughout a very large country.

Distance is the culprit. The same is true in the United States. In California, for example, one congressional district is 450 miles long. 

So, here we are in 2022. In a few weeks, AMLO will have his party members in Congress shut down the Federal Electoral Institute, the very organization that counted the 2018 votes and announced that Lopez Obrador won the presidency in his third try with over 50% of the vote among several candidates.

He wants to replace the independent electoral organization with party hacks whose loyalty is their guiding light. And he wants to cut proportional representation in Congress so his party can dominate and potentially change the Mexican constitution.

In other words, the political free-for-all in Mexico since 2000 will disappear and one man or woman will run the country like in the  good old days of the corrupt PRI. It will be just like the old Soviet Union.

Raoul Lowery Contreras is a Marine veteran, political consultant, prolific author and host of the Contreras Report on YouTube and ROKU.