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100,000 in Mexico Protest Obrador Loss

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The Associated Press
Saturday, July 8, 2006; 8:38 PM

MEXICO CITY -- More than 100,000 defiant supporters of leftist presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador massed Saturday in a bid to overturn his narrow election defeat with protests that threatened to widen Mexico's regional and class divisions.

Lopez Obrador told the huge crowd he would present allegations of fraud to the nation's electoral court Sunday and request that every one of more than 41 million votes be recounted, to expose what he called wrongdoing that cost him the election.

"We are going to ask that they clean up the elections. We are going to ask that they count all the votes _ vote-by-vote, poll-by-poll," Lopez Obrador said to wide applause.

He called for nationwide marches that would converge on Mexico City in another rally July 16, provoking groans of disappointment when he told demonstrators not to block highways.

"This has been and goes on being a peaceful movement," Lopez Obrador said. "We are not going to fall for any provocations."

The show of defiance suggested just how difficult it will be for apparent victor Felipe Calderon to unify Mexicans, many of whom believe the nation has yet to overcome decades of institutional corruption and fraud.

European Union election observers have said they had found no major irregularities.

But the ruling party's Calderon can't be declared president-elect until the electoral court weighs allegations of fraud or unfair campaign practices. It has until Sept. 6 to declare a winner.

Election officials say Calderon beat Lopez Obrador by less than 244,000 votes out of a total of 41 million ballots _ or a margin of about 0.6 percent.

Most of Lopez Obrador's supporters come from poor southern states while conservative Felipe Calderon's strength is in Mexico's industrialized north.

"We are never going to recognize this man (Calderon)," said Apolinario Fernandez, 37, a teacher from Lopez Obrador's home state of Tabasco in the southeast. "If he wants, let him govern in the north for the rich, but not in the south."

Fernandez traveled all night to the demonstration in Mexico City's famed Zocalo plaza, where more than 100,000 people in the square waved banners with slogans denouncing the alleged fraud.

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© 2006 The Associated Press

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