Fox Urges End to Mexico City Protests

The Associated Press
Wednesday, August 2, 2006; 11:13 PM

MEXICO CITY -- President Vicente Fox urged Mexico City authorities Wednesday to remove sprawling camps of leftist protesters who want a complete recount of last month's presidential election, saying they are choking off commerce and tourism in the capital.

Fox, who previously stayed on the sidelines of the dispute over the left's allegations of vote fraud, said the tent cities that have occupied a five-mile stretch of swank Avenida de la Reforma since Sunday are "putting jobs and economic activity at risk."

In a statement read by his spokesman, Ruben Aguilar, Fox urged the city government to find a legal and peaceful way to end the protest led by leftist candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

Aguilar stressed that the federal administration didn't have the authority to intervene. He put the responsibility on the city government, which is allied with Lopez Obrador.

"The city of Mexico is for everyone," Aguilar said. "Democracy should be defended by respecting it."

A congressional leadership committee approved a nonbinding resolution urging Mexico City Mayor Alejandro Encinas to reopen the city's streets "to ensure the right of freedom of movement for all citizens."

But Mayor Alejandro Encinas, who succeeded Lopez Obrador and is a member of the candidate's Democratic Revolution Party, argued the protesters are breaking no laws.

"I am supporting a cause and my own personal convictions," he added.

Lopez Obrador asked his supporters Sunday to seize Mexico City's center as part of his battle to win a vote-by-vote recount of all 41 million-plus votes cast July 2.

The official count, which has not been certified by Mexico's top electoral court, gave the candidate of Fox's pro-business National Action Party, Felipe Calderon, a lead of less than 240,000 votes, or less than 0.6 percent.

Lopez Obrador, who stepped down as Mexico City mayor a year ago to run for president, claims the election was marred by fraud and dirty campaign practices.

The Federal Electoral Tribunal has until Sept. 6 to declare a president-elect or annul the election.

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