Leftist Claims Broad Fraud in Mexican Vote

The Associated Press
Monday, July 10, 2006; 11:38 PM

MEXICO CITY -- Leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and his campaign staff claimed that a network of federal officials, prosecutors and possibly even judges collaborated in a broad conspiracy to steal last week's presidential elections.

They say they have evidence for the fraud, including videos like one Lopez Obrador showed reporters on Monday, in which a man in the state of Guanajuato is seen stuffing several ballots into a ballot box marked for congressional races. It was not clear who the votes were marked for. There was no immediate way to confirm the authenticity of the video.

Lopez Obrador supporters say they plan to visit foreign embassies here to demand their governments not congratulate conservative Felipe Calderon _ who narrowly won the July 2 race according to the official vote count _ until Mexican courts hear the leftist's appeals for a manual recount.

Calderon says the vote was clean and has taken congratulatory phone calls from President Bush and the leaders of Canada, Spain and Colombia, among others.

In a news release Monday, Calderon's campaign said they are looking at presenting their own evidence to the electoral tribunals, showing that the election was fair.

White House spokesman Tony Snow said Bush would acknowledge any Mexican court rulings that could change who won the election.

Lopez Obrador's staff also announced that a series of marches and demonstrations across the country starting Wednesday will continue indefinitely. The leftist's supporters are planning a mass meeting for Sunday in Mexico City and simultaneous rallies other cities.

Manuel Camacho Solis, one of Lopez Obrador's campaign advisers, claimed that charges for political crimes brought by a special prosecutor days before the elections against an ex-president were part of a plan to pressure the ex-leader's Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, to support Calderon.

"They went to the extreme of ordering house arrest for ex-president Luis Echeverria a few days before the election on genocide, only to drop them two or three days after the election," Camacho Solis said.

On Saturday, a federal judge threw out the charges of genocide _ related to the killing of student protesters in 1968, when Echeverria was interior secretary _ ruling that the statute of limitations had run out. The same grounds have been cited by other judges in the case.

Lopez Obrador's main hope lies in electoral tribunal appeals that charge there were nationwide violations before the election, including campaign overspending, government support for Calderon, and unfair intervention on his behalf by business and church groups.

More specific appeals are being filed in at least 151 _ and perhaps all _ of the country's 300 electoral districts, claiming mainly that ballots are either unaccounted for, or that there were more votes than ballots or registered voters, at specific polling places.

Lopez Obrador, however, did not express confidence in the country's highest electoral court.

"Let's wait," he said, when asked whether he would accept the court's ruling in the case, due by August 31 and which cannot be appealed.

Vote tallies showed Calderon won by about 244,000 votes _ or a margin of just 0.6 percent.

© 2006 The Associated Press