Saturday, June 2, 2012

Valley politiqueras eat Laredo's canoneros' lunch

The contested ballots were traced to nursing homes, adult daycares and assisted living centers, and she interviewed more than 100 of the voters. The stories were consistent. They'd been visited at election time by a politiquera, who came bearing Mexican sweet breads or barbecue plates and “helped them” vote.

“These people are just dying for company, that's all they want,” Flores said, “They want somebody to talk to, they want to feel needed, and that's where they're exploited.”

In a Democratic stronghold like the Rio Grande Valley, most contests will be decided in the primaries, and of the votes cast, nearly half may be in the two weeks before election day. And in the hyper-local races — county commission seats, precinct constables, small city mayors and council members — the 200 votes the politiqueras secure for, say, $2,000, can be the deciding factor toward a position of power that can influence who gets the big insurance or construction contracts or a nod on a job with decent pay.

The politiqueras are enormously powerful, able to steer the poor to the right lawyer, the right social service agency, the right office-holder to solve their problems.

In exchange for their reach within the community, they are wined and dined, invited to high-society weddings, given paid trips to the state party convention.

The powers that be rely on them, said a Democratic candidate who feared being identified because it would not only cost her the race but also bring retribution to family and friends.

“Every candidate is approached,” she said, adding that she gave a polite no, resigned to the likelihood the politiquera would just sell her votes to an opponent. Two politicians who weren't afraid to go on the record had left the Democratic party.

One, state Rep. Aaron Peña, R-Edinburg, recalled his early days as a Democrat.
“They'd walk into the office with a stack of ballots, probably two fists full, and say that they were for sale if I wanted to pay for them,” he said, noting that he turned them down.

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  1. Well at least they don't have to worry about signs being left behind. It's good for the environment???

  2. Aaron Pena never turned ANYHING down, especially if there was a chance for him to line his pockets.