Mexico's ruling party may lose local vote in Guerrero
Low voter turnout in tense but peaceful election
October 7, 1996
Web posted at: 11:40 p.m. EDT (0340 GMT)
From Correspondent Lucia Newman
GUERRERO, Mexico (CNN) -- Early election returns indicate
Mexico's ruling party, the Institutional Revolutionary Party
(PRI), may not be able to maintain its grip on power in the
impoverished south-western state of Guerrero, where the threat
of guerrilla war hangs on the vote.
The PRI lost two of Guerrero's biggest towns to the
opposition in Sunday's vote for a new 28-member state
congress and 76 mayors, an election billed as one of the most
peaceful and least corrupt in the state's history.
Although voting was uneventful throughout the region, nobody
could accuse the locals of being enthusiastic. More than
half the state's voters stayed at home, and even some of
those who did vote were not convinced that their vote
"It's always the same thing. I vote because it's my duty, but
I have yet to see that this changes anything," said one voter
in the impoverished region of Atoyaquillo.
The elections can't bring back the villagers who died on an
Atoyaquillo road last year. The monument in their honor
reads, "Seventeen peasants were massacred by government
agents in June last year."
It is also unlikely to change the circumstances that spawned
the creation of the People's Revolutionary Army (EPR), a new
armed movement that made its first appearance at the monument
to commemorate the anniversary of that massacre.
In Guerrero, violence has long had a bad habit of replacing
democracy. Electoral fraud and feuding have been the norm.
But for this election, the EPR guerrillas kept their promise
not to interfere, as did the Mexican Army, which stayed out
of sight so as not to intimidate voters.
"The fact that in Guerrero we have a peaceful and fair
election will send a signal out to the rest of the country
and the most conflictive areas, that there is hope in that
channel," said Civic Alliance leader Sergio Aguayo.
Some made allegations that the ruling PRI party bought votes,
but charges of widespread tampering were absent. In fact,
the government seemed more interested than anyone else in
proving that it could hold legitimate elections in this
state, where local governments have had a long history of
"We have to learn to respect the opinions of our opponents,"
said Guerrero's governor, Angel Aguirre. "We believe that
those who take up arms don't understand these changes and the
transformations that this country is undertaking."
But in this state of contrasts, where a few enjoy the
luxuries of Acapulco while the majority live in extreme
poverty, the low voter turnout is a worrisome sign.
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