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Protesters Disrupt Mexican Stock Market

By IOAN GRILLO
The Associated Press
Thursday, August 3, 2006; 12:19 PM

MEXICO CITY -- Several hundred supporters of leftist presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador blocked the entrance to Mexico's stock market Thursday, pledging to continue disrupting life in the capital until a court rules on their demand for a vote-by-vote recount.

Holding yellow balloons representing their candidate's party, protesters called on the Federal Electoral Tribunal to grant Lopez Obrador the recount he demands _ claiming it will expose fraud that tilted the race in favor of his conservative opponent.

"Through this pressure, we want leaders to understand that we want a different government," said 78-year-old housewife Carmen Arias.

Others waved slogan-laden placards and chanted "Vote by vote!"

Traders said the protests would not affect stock transactions, conducted electronically from brokerage offices. The market opened at about 9 a.m. and was operating at normal levels.

Official results from the July 2 election, which await the court's certification, gave an advantage of less than 0.6 percent, or about 240,000 votes, to Felipe Calderon, Mexico's former energy secretary.

The electoral court has until Sept. 6 to declare a winner, order a recount or annul the vote, after weighing challenges filed by both sides.

Flooding from heavy rain and hail forced other demonstrators to relocate several tents of a sprawling protest camp stretching along Mexico City's stylish Reforma Avenue to the city's central plaza. Lopez Obrador told supporters Wednesday to maintain the tent city until the court issues a ruling.

Lopez Obrador ran his campaign on the theme of a government for everyone _ "but first the poor."

In a nationally televised address late Wednesday, Calderon called on "all Mexicans to safeguard peace and work together for a Mexico that's more prosperous and fair."

"I have acted responsibly and not let myself be provoked because I firmly believe in the power of peace and because we won cleanly," he said.

Lopez Obrador, who stepped down as Mexico City's mayor to run for president, said that street blockades aside, no further civil resistance was planned until the court decides on the full recount.

President Vicente Fox and a congressional committee have urged city officials to intervene to stop the disruptive protests.

© 2006 The Associated Press