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Mexican Opposition Demands Probe into Reported Sale of Voter Data - 2003-04-21


Opposition parties in Mexico are demanding an investigation into the reported sale of voter registration information to a firm in the United States that then sold the data to the U.S. government. The alleged data sale is seen by many Mexicans as an intrusion on the nation's sovereignty.

The story of the voter registration data purchase emerged in a Milenio newspaper investigative report last week. According to the report, the U.S. government commissioned a private company known as ChoicePoint to obtain Mexican voter registration information and other data. The alleged request for this data came from the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, which has now been absorbed by the new Homeland Security Department.

ChoicePoint has acknowledged purchasing data on Mexico's 65 million registered voters as well as data on six million licensed drivers in Mexico City. The company says the transaction was carried out with a private Mexican company and that it was within the law. The company denies having obtained any such information directly from a Mexican government source.

Alejandro Encinas, Mexico City's Secretary of Government, however, says ChoicePoint is a company with what he calls a "dark past."

He says city officials are investigating how the information on drivers' licenses was obtained and he called on the Mexican federal government to investigate the sale of data from the nation's electoral institute.

Opposition party leaders have called on President Vicente Fox to ask the United States why it was seeking this data. Legislators from the Institutional Revolutionary Party and the Party of the Democratic Revolution have expressed outrage over the sale of voter data, insisting that such information should be confidential and kept in Mexico.

The Mexican Federal Electoral Institute has filed a criminal complaint against anyone found to have sold the voter data to ChoicePoint. Meanwhile, the federal prosecutor in charge of election-related crimes has launched an investigation and is seeking cooperation from the United States.

The scandal over the electoral data sale comes less than three months before important mid-term elections in Mexico. Electoral officials, however, say the sale of voter registration information should have no effect on the elections set for July 6.

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