- Greg Palast is the author of the New
York Times bestseller, "ARMED MADHOUSE: Who's Afraid of Osama
Wolf?, China Floats Bush Sinks, the Scheme to Steal '08, No Child's Behind
Left and other Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Class War."
- George Bush's operatives have plans to
jigger with the upcoming elections. I'm not talking about the November
'06 vote in the USA (though they have plans for that, too). I'm talking
about the election this Sunday in Mexico for their Presidency.
- It begins with an FBI document marked,
"Counterterrorism" and "Foreign Intelligence Collection"
and "Secret." Date: "9/17/2001,"
six days after the attack on the World Trade towers. It's nice to
know the feds got right on the ball, if a little late.
- What does this have to do with jiggering
Mexico's election? Hold that thought.
- This document is what's called a "guidance"
memo for using a private contractor to provide databases on dangerous foreigners.
Good idea. We know the 19 hijackers came from Saudi Arabia, Pakistan
and the Persian Gulf Emirates. So you'd think the "Intelligence
Collection" would be aimed at getting info on the guys in the Gulf.
- No so. When we received the document,
we obtained as well its classified appendix. The target nations for
"foreign counterterrorism investigation" were nowhere near the
Persian Gulf. Every one was in Latin America -- Argentina, Venezuela,
Mexico and a handful of others. See one of the documents yourself.
- Latin America?! Was there a terror
cell about to cross into San Diego with exploding enchiladas?
- All the target nations had one thing
in common besides a lack of terrorists: each had a left-leaning presidential
candidate or a left-leaning president in office. In Venezuela, President
Hugo Chavez, bete noir of the Bush Administration, was facing a recall
vote. In Mexico, the anti-Bush Mayor of Mexico City, Andres Manuel
Lopez Obrador was (and is) leading the race for the Presidency.
- Most provocative is the contractor to
whom this no-bid contract was handed: ChoicePoint Inc. of Alpharetta,
Georgia. ChoicePoint is the database company that created a list
for Governor Jeb Bush of Florida of voters to scrub from voter rolls before
the 2000 election. ChoicePoint's list (94,000 names in all) contained
few felons. Most of those on the list were guilty of no crime except
Voting While Black. The disenfranchisement of these voters cost Al
Gore the presidency.
- Having chosen our President for us, our
President's men chose ChoicePoint for this sweet War on Terror database
gathering. The use of the Venezuela's and Mexico's voter registry
files to fight terror is not visible -- but the use of the lists to manipulate
elections is as obvious as the make-up on Katherine Harris' cheeks.
- In Venezuela, leading up to the August
2004 vote on whether to re-call President Chavez, I saw his opposition
pouring over the voter rolls in laptops, claiming the right to challenge
voters as Jeb's crew did to voters in Florida. It turns out this
operation was partly funded by the International Republican Institute of
Washington, an arm of the GOP. Where did they get the voter info?
- In that case, access to Venezuela's voter
rolls didn't help the Republican-assisted drive against Chavez, who won
by a crushing plurality.
- In Mexico this Sunday, we can expect
to see the same: challenges of Obrador voters in a race, the polls
say, is too close to call. Not that Mexico's rulers need lessons
from the Bush Administration on how to mess with elections.
- In 1988, the candidate for Obrador's
Party of the Democratic Revolution (PDR), who opinion polls showed as a
certain winner, somehow came up short against the incumbent party of the
ruling elite. Some of the electoral tricks were far from subtle.
In the state of Guerrero, the PDR was leading on official tally sheets
by 359,369. Oddly, the official final count was 309,202 for the ruling
party, only182,874 for the PDR. Challenging the vote would have been
dangerous. Two top officials of Obrador's party were assassinated
during the campaign.
- Crucial to the surprise victory of the
ruling party was the introduction of computer voting machines and the centralization
of voter databases. Observer Andrew Reding of the Council on Hemispheric
Affairs reported that ruling party operatives had special access codes
denied the opposition.
- Whether the US "War on Terror"
lists will find a use in Sunday's election, we cannot know. But the
use of American government resources to interfere in south-of-the-border
campaigns is an open secret. The GOP's International Republican Institute
has run training sessions for the PAN youth wing, funded by US taxpayers
through the "National Endowment for Democracy."
- Foreign -- that is, American -- interference
in political campaigns is a crime. That didn't stop Team Bush.
However, when the theft of its citizen files was discovered, Argentina
threatened to arrest ChoicePoint contractors until the company returned
the tapes -- and Mexico's attorney general did in fact arrest the ChoicePoint
data thieves to avoid his party's looking too much the stooge of its Washington
patron. Whether George Bush gave back his copy, no one will say.
- Wholesale theft is expected on Sunday
in forms both subtle and brutal. How the US' purloined "counterterrorism"
lists will be used, we don't know. We are certain however, that the
Administration did not siphon off these Latin voter files to fight a War
on Terror. It appears, rather, part of the Bush Administration's
and GOP's hemispheric War on Democracy -- along a battle line which runs
from Florida to Ohio to Juarez.
- For as-it-happens reporting on the Mexican
election, check www.GregPalast.com for dispatches from our team investigator
Special Correspondent Matt Pascarella with video journalist Rick Rowley
in Mexico City.
- Get your copy of Palast's new book, Armed
Madhouse, at www.GregPalast.com
- Special thanks to the Electronic Privacy
Information Center, Washington DC, which received and passed on to our
team the FBI ChoicePoint files and other foreign intelligence documentation.