As voters gear up to go to the polls tomorrow for the biggest election in Mexico’s history, some people have taken democracy into their own hands by stealing or burning ballots — and even printing their own.
In Michoacán, the state’s electoral institute reported that at least four packets containing around 3,000 ballots were burned in the largely indigenous municipality of Nahuatzen last night.
Since last week, members of the Supreme Indigenous Council have been blocking highways and access to communities in the Michoacán Purépecha Plateau as part of a protest related to a long-running fight with the state government over security, housing, health and other social issues.
When trucks transporting ballots for the municipal election entered Nahuatzen at about midnight, protesters seized some of them and set them on fire.
The National Electoral Institute (INE) has announced that due to unrest in some parts of the state, around 45 polling stations won’t be set up as planned. Nahuatzen and other indigenous communities will be affected.
In Oaxaca, meanwhile, 1,770 ballots were stolen by armed civilians yesterday just east of Puerto Escondido in San Pedro Mixtepec.
It was the third time this week that ballots have been stolen in the southern state.
According to a report filed with the electoral crimes division (Fepade) of the federal Attorney General’s office (PGR), two officials from the Oaxaca Electoral Institute as well as a driver were forced to get out of their vehicle.
The armed men took the vehicle and drove off before abandoning it a few kilometers down the road, minus the ballots that were to be delivered to the communities of La Reforma and El Salitre.
Half of the ballots were for municipal elections in San Pedro Mixtepec while the other half were for the state Congress election.
Oaxaca electoral authorities said yesterday that they had reprinted the 10,000 ballots that were stolen in two separate earlier incidents in the municipalities of San Juan Quiahije and San Francisco del Mar.
Seven packets of ballots were also stolen yesterday in the Chiapas municipality of Huixtán.
The state’s electoral institute said that at around midday a vehicle in which electoral officials were transporting ballots and materials to be used to set up voting booths was intercepted by a group of men in a pick-up truck.
According to one of the officials, the men demanded that the ballots be handed over and showed no interest in other items that were in the vehicle.
INE official Marco Antonio Baños said yesterday that 34 packets of ballots had been stolen but with the Michoacán theft that number has now risen to at least 38.
Ballots in five packets were to be used for the federal election while those in the other 33 were for state or municipal contests.
Prior to yesterday’s incidents, ballots were also stolen in Veracruz, Tabasco and Tamaulipas.
Apart from ballot theft in Chiapas, authorities were also alerted yesterday to people at an internet cafe in the municipality of Jiquipilas who were allegedly printing fake ballots for tomorrow’s elections.
Fepade personnel went to the cafe and arrested two people. The newspaper El Universal said that whether those detained are affiliated with a particular political party was unknown.
There have also been reports of parties attempting to buy votes in tomorrow’s general election at which millions of Mexicans will cast their votes at a total of 156,823 polling booths.
Quick count results for the presidential election are expected to be announced between 10:00pm and 11:30pm tomorrow night.