López Obrador Urges Protest Camps to Occupy Mexico City

By Cyntia Barrera
Monday, July 31, 2006

MEXICO CITY, July 30 -- Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the runner-up in Mexico's presidential election, led hundreds of thousands of people in a rally Sunday and urged them to protest in the capital until all the votes were recounted.

López Obrador told supporters that the demonstration would take place in the Zocalo, one of the largest squares in the world, and on main roads running through the city center.

The protest marks the start of a campaign of civil disobedience to protest the results of the July 2 election in which López Obrador apparently lost by a half-percentage-point to Felipe Calderón, a free-trade booster.

"I propose that we stay here day and night until the votes are counted and we have a president-elect," López Obrador said, adding that he would live with thousands of supporters in the Zocalo until the election fight was resolved.

"I assure you our effort and sacrifice will not be in vain," he said.

Hundreds of thousands of people packed the capital Sunday to back López Obrador, and they screamed: "Yes" when he proposed the full-time protest.

"Andrés Manuel, hold on, the people are rising up," supporters chanted Sunday, many dressed in the bright yellow of his Party of the Democratic Revolution.

It was the third major protest rally in the past three weeks. Police estimated that more than a million people joined the march.

Mexico was plunged into a political crisis by the results of the election, in which Calderón beat López Obrador by about 244,000 votes out of more than 41 million cast.

López Obrador, an austere former mayor of Mexico City who promised to help the poor with ambitious infrastructure and welfare programs, has said the result was rigged against him.

"The elections were filthy," said Maria Teresa Priego, 57, a government employee. "We are here to support a humble man, a hard-working man."

The fight has split Mexico just six years after President Vicente Fox won a historic election that ended seven decades of one-party rule.

Calderón insists the vote was clean and no recount is needed. He was scheduled to argue his case before the seven-judge electoral tribunal Sunday. The panel has until Sept. 6 to declare a winner or annul the election.

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