Mexico crisis deepens with civil resistance plan
Mon Jul 17, 2006 5:49 PM ET
Mon Jul 17, 2006 5:49 PM ET
By Alistair Bell
MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - A campaign of civil resistance by leftists to force a recount in Mexico's disputed presidential election will start this week, taking the U.S. ally further down the road of crisis.
Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the leftist who lost the July 2 vote by a hair's breadth, said high-profile actions to bring attention to his claims of fraud and demands for a recount were imminent.
"As of today, we will work out the plan and what I can say is that the first civil resistance actions will begin this week," he told a left-wing radio station.
Lopez Obrador lost the July 2 election to conservative Felipe Calderon by some 240,000 votes, out of over 41 million cast, and he claims widespread fraud.
Leftist leaders refused to say what kind of protests were planned by Lopez Obrador, who pulled a crowd of hundreds of thousands of supporters at a demonstration on Sunday.
Manuel Camacho Solis, a main political adviser to the leftist, said some of the actions would not be announced in advance to maintain an element of surprise.
"What I can say at the moment is that the protests are going to increase in the next two weeks all over the country," he told Reuters.
An electoral court is studying complaints by Lopez Obrador that there were huge irregularities in the original count, and a later recount of tally sheets. The court must declare a winner of the election by September 6.
European Union observers have said there was no major fraud at the election, which divided Mexico between left and right only six years after President Vicente Fox ended seven decades of single-party rule in the last presidential vote.
Sunday's march, along several miles of city streets, ended without any clashes or destruction of property, despite fears that the protests could get out of hand.
Calderon, a former energy minister, dubbed Lopez Obrador "a danger for Mexico" in TV ads during the campaign but he was conciliatory on Monday.
"I repeat my invitation to sustain and strengthen the dialogue that allows us to define and decide the Mexico we want for our children," he told a meeting of religious leaders.
"Peace is built with the efforts of everyone. It demands abiding by the law," he said.
Harvard-educated Calderon would foster Mexico's close relations with the United States. Lopez Obrador would be likely to create more friction with Washington, but he would not change Mexico's status as a close trade ally and partner on border security, analysts say.
Lopez Obrador, who wants a vote-for-vote recount from the election, has a long history of leading protests.
As a local politician in his native state of Tabasco in the 1990s he blocked oil wells and encouraged tens of thousands of people not to pay energy bills to protest alleged vote fraud and environmental damage by the Pemex oil company.
Camacho Solis said there would be no blocking oil wells this time around.
"We are not thinking of that," he said. "Everything we do will be peaceful and within Mexican law," he said.
Calderon has flatly opposed a vote-for-vote recount but a top aide suggested he would approve of it if the Trife electoral court ordered one.
"We would accept any mandate from the Trife," advisor Josefina Vazquez Mota told Reuters.