Mexican Leftist Urges Blockades in Capital

The Associated Press
Sunday, July 30, 2006; 11:23 PM

MEXICO CITY -- Leftist candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador called Sunday for hundreds of thousands of his supporters to erect permanent protest camps to cripple Mexico's capital until a disputed presidential election is decided.

Addressing what organizers said was a gathering of 2 million in the city's historic central plaza and spilling down fashionable Reforma boulevard, Lopez Obrador said, "I propose we stay here permanently until the court resolves this ... that we stay here day and night."

If Lopez Obrador supporters heed his call, blockades could have a catastrophic effect on already chaotic city traffic, hurting downtown commerce.

The leftist asked his followers not to "invade public spaces" and demonstrators said they wouldn't block streets, but Lopez Obrador also apologized in advance for "any inconvenience our movement might cause."

"We will take drastic measures. We will blockade airports, we will take over embassies," marcher Sara Zepeda, 32, said as she pushed her 2-month-old son in a baby carriage.

The former Mexico City mayor finished slightly behind his conservative opponent, ex-Energy Secretary Felipe Calderon, in the July 2 election, and says a vote-by-vote recount will expose fraud that titled the election.

An official count gave Calderon less than 0.6 percent over Lopez Obrador, about 240,000 votes out of some 41 million cast. The Federal Electoral Tribunal has until Sept. 6 to either declare a winner or annul the election.

Calderon appeared before the electoral court on Sunday to argue that the election was clean, and that a full recount was unnecessary and illegal.

Calderon said his victory was fair, and the country shouldn't be intimidated by street protests in favor of his opponent.

"The question is whether we Mexicans are going to resolve our differences with pressure tactics and marches, or with reason and by the law," Calderon told the seven-judge panel. "Whether force and threats are stronger than the law."

Calderon asked the magistrates "whether the votes of 42 million people can be supplanted by protest camps and demonstrations."

"At the end of the day, we won the presidential election. Period," Calderon said.

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© 2006 The Associated Press