The “hunger vote”
Archdiocese of Tijuana warns that the buying or selling votes is sinful
AUGUST 1, 2007 (http://calcatholic.com) - Taking advantage of needy people by buying their vote in exchange for food and other necessities is a sin, says Presencia, the weekly newspaper of the Archdiocese of Tijuana. A special edition of Presencia was distributed on Sunday, July 29, in all the parishes of Baja California – a week before statewide elections.
On Aug. 5, Baja Californians will go to the polls in what is expected to be one of the most contested statewide elections in 18 years. It was in 1989 that the National Action Party (PAN) delivered the first major electoral defeat in more than 60 years to the then-governing Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). Since its founding in 1929, the PRI had never suffered a defeat in any of the 31 states of Mexico, not to mention the national presidency. That’s why it is said that the PAN, with its 1989 electoral victory in Baja California, opened the doors of democracy for Mexico. In 2000, the PRI lost the presidency of Mexico for the first time.
But now, after 18 years out of government in Baja California, the PRI has returned with a very powerful candidate for governor: the eccentric multi-millionaire Jorge Hank Rohn, mayor of Tijuana (on leave from his post to make his gubernatorial bid) and owner of the Caliente Sports Book, the most important gambling business in Mexico, with revenues in the first semester of 2007 of more than $700 million.
On July 31, the national daily Reforma published the findings of a federal investigation that demonstrated that, during Hank’s tenure as mayor of Tijuana, the municipal police department was completely penetrated and corrupted by the Tijuana drug cartel.
Hank is also is feared for the 1988 murder of Héctor “El Gato” Félix, a notorious journalist who criticized Hank for his links to the drug mafia. Antonio Vera Palestina, then chief of Hank’s personal escort, is now serving a 25-year prison sentence for the assassination.
If Hank wins, his critics say the worst of the old PRI, which for more than six decades fraudulently won every state and national election in Mexico, would recover political power in Baja California.
On July 21, Baja California state police caught a team of Hank’s campaign workers removing food packages from a municipal warehouse in Tijuana and distributing them in poor neighborhoods in exchange for votes.
That is what the special issue of Presencia refers to when it says that “exchanging votes for food or money” is not acceptable. “Don’t let them buy you, your vote is worth more than a ‘gift,’” said the archdiocesan newspaper. “In a tight competition, the ‘hunger vote’ could be decisive... It is a sin to sell my vote, to buy a vote, to steal votes.”