For many Mexicans in Utah, presidential election a farce

Tainted by corruption: Decades of dirty politics have left citizens suspicious of the election system
This is an archived article that was published on in 2006, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

WEST VALLEY CITY - Many Mexicans here say they didn't participate in the first of that country's elections open to nationals living abroad because they don't trust Mexico's leaders and election system.

But among those who had a preference, conservative Felipe Calderon seemed to be the favorite.

Marcos Perez, who moved from Mexico to the United States 14 years ago, called the elections of his native country "a farce." He didn't care that Calderon edged Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador in official results likely to be contested because he figures politicians are all the same, regardless of political party.

"The votes are already rigged," Perez, a 32-year-old West Valley City resident, said Thursday. "They put in the president they want - not the president for the people."

Selene Gonzalez, a 36-year-old small-business owner, said the election results turned into another "disaster." She already knew there would be debates about the results, so she said she would rather not deal with voting.

If Gonzalez had to choose, though, she said would have picked Calderon, a member of the conservative party of outgoing President Vicente Fox, because she was somewhat satisfied with Fox's initiatives to help the poor. But, she's not expecting much more from Calderon because his political party doesn't have control of Congress.

"He has good proposals, but that's all they are - proposals," said Gonzalez, who moved from Mexico City to the United States 18 years ago. "They [Mexican politicians] didn't let Fox do anything."

But, Gonzalez said she hopes in years to come that Mexicans feel empowered to take control of their government and force politicians to make changes, instead of belittling people.

"They taught us in Mexico that the United States had all the power," she said. "They don't give us the opportunity to dream because there's so much corruption."

Some Mexicans who voted by absentee ballot said they are excited about Calderon's victory and Mexico's future.

Twenty-year-old Anahi Valetine, who has been in Utah for 18 months, said she voted for Calderon by mail because she believes he will continue where Fox left off, especially when it comes to social programs. For example, Valentine said her family benefited from a food program that Fox initiated that supplied people with boxes of rice, beans, oil and sugar. She also hopes Calderon keeps his promise to work with the United States to implement a guest-worker permit program for the 11 million undocumented immigrants living here.

"[Calderon] is going to do something for us Mexicans," she said.

Even though some people might not have confidence in Mexico's election results, a Brigham Young University assistant professor said the election system has "drastically changed" in the past decade.

Kirk Hawkins, a Latin-American political researcher, said he believes the candidates will ultimately accept the final results. He called Sunday's election and results "a remarkable accomplishment," considering the problems Mexico had in elections before 2000, when Fox was elected.

Still, Mexico's relations with the United States really wouldn't undergo major changes under Calderon or Obrador, Hawkins said. Calderon, a former congressman, might have more power when negotiating with the United States because he can usually get things done, he said.

Calderon is strongly respected by his party leaders and can get parties to compromise on agreements, Hawkins said.

"With Fox, you could never be sure if agreements would be implemented by the Mexican Congress," Hawkins said. "With Calderon as a more capable leader, it makes it more attractive to negotiate with him."

Mexico's next presidential election isn't until 2012, but some Mexicans in Utah said they might consider voting next time.

Abel Herrera, a U.S. permanent resident, is a 19-year-old Mexican citizen who grew up in Utah. He plans to figure out how he can vote in Mexico because he cares for his native country and relatives that still live there.

"I want to help bring good leadership," he said.