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Mexican Opposition Wins One State Vote, Claims Fraud in 2nd

PRESIDENT Carlos Salinas de Gortari is likely to have something more than peanuts and crackerjacks on his mind tonight when he meets President Bush in San Diego to take in baseball's All-Star game.

Back home, two pivotal gubernatorial elections were held Sunday which could not only change the face of Mexican politics but are being viewed as indicators of Mr. Salinas' commitment to fraud-free, democratic elections.

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No doubt free trade negotiations and a renegotiated extradition treaty will figure into the Bush-Salinas pre-game discussions. But Salinas may have trouble concentrating on the exploits of Wade Boggs with Mexican opposition parties crying foul.

In the politically volatile state of Michoacan and the border state of Chihuahua, elections were held in relative calm with no reported violence. Early returns indicate the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) leading the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) by a 2-to-1 margin in Michoacan. In Chihuahua, the PRI admitted defeat to the National Action Party (PAN).

Some independent observers in Michoacan saw various electoral "irregularities," but not the blatant fraud seen in past elections. Nonetheless, Cristobal Arias, the gubernatorial candidate of the PRD, alleges "massive fraud" occurred on election day.

On Sunday evening, PRD officials cited 103 "anomalies" in Michoacan, including theft of voting urns in two towns, a shortage of ballots in PRD strongholds, the "kidnapping" of 10 PRD supporters by local police for allegedly interfering with the voting process, and 17 voter credentials found dumped in a trash can.

A PRI spokeswoman describes the PRD allegations as poorly documented and said they should be turned over to state authorities for verification.

In the PRD-run town of Apatzingan, Higenica Soloran, a polling station official, told the Monitor that "about 25" people showed up with their voter registration documents but were not allowed to vote because they did not have voter identification cards. Opposition parties in both states claim 10 percent to 30 percent of potential opposition supporters were deliberately left off voter rolls or did not receive voting credentials.

THE law against party propaganda near voting booths was violated by both sides. One official observer at a booth in Apatzingan wore a PRD party pin. At another booth, a woman in a PRI T-shirt helped a family member fill out her ballot.

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Opposition parties complain that the deck is stacked against them because 80 percent to 90 percent of the electoral officials are members of the PRI. Interviews with those manning the polling stations confirmed the majority were PRI sympathizers.

The PRD claims the PRI cut phone lines to its election headquarters for five hours. PRD officials found a man, purporting to be from the phone company but lacking identification, tampering with the phone junction box outside the building. He was taken inside for questioning but was released when a mob of "more than 100" led by local PRI legislators gathered outside.

The PRD has warned that if the elections aren't clean and it loses, PRD supporters are prepared to commit acts of civil disobedience. Political analysts say that the PRD must win in Michoacan, a stronghold for the left-leaning party, if its leader, Cuauhtemoc Cardenas Solorzano, is to have a chance at winning the 1994 presidential elections.

Meanwhile, the Salinas visit to San Diego provides the opposition with a chance to embarrass the Mexican president. Protests denouncing fraud here could hurt Salinas's reformist image and undermine support in the US Congress for a free trade pact.

Salinas and Bush may announce a date for their trade ministers to finalize a free trade pact, sources close to Salinas say. Negotiators are believed to be close to an accord. But the US congressional approval calendar makes it likely that if the treaty is not completed this month, Bush may not be able to put his signature on an agreement before the US elections in November.

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