Mexican Leftists Block Treasury Dept.

The Associated Press
Thursday, August 10, 2006; 2:09 PM

MEXICO CITY -- Supporters of leftist candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador blockaded Mexico's Treasury Department on Thursday as electoral officials conducted a partial recount of the disputed presidential election.

The Federal Electoral Institute levied about $6.7 million in fines on all five parties that fielded candidates, citing errors or irregularities in their 2005 financial reports. Lopez Obrador's Democratic Revolution Party got the biggest penalty, $2.9 million, while the ruling National Action Party was fined $1.2 million.

Electoral official Andres Albo Marquez said the fines reflected the number and seriousness of the parties' violations. Officials said without elaborating that they found the reports lacked details on how campaign funds were spent.

Continuing a wave of protests against alleged electoral fraud, dozens of Lopez Obrador supporters blocked the Treasury Department as well as entrances to the main offices of three foreign-owned banks here, chanting "Vote by vote!" and "Long live democracy!"

Aides also called for activists to demonstrate outside the attorney general's office.

The former Mexico City mayor is demanding a recount of all 41 million ballots from the July 2 election, instead of the partial recount of about 9 percent of the polling booths that officials began Wednesday.

Initial election results gave conservative National Action Party candidate Felipe Calderon a 240,000-vote lead over Lopez Obrador. That's less than a 0.6 percent margin.

Lopez Obrador's supporters have vowed to continue protests until their demands are met.

President Vicente Fox's spokesman, Ruben Aguilar, asked Mexicans to respect electoral institutions, a day after officials sifted through the votes while searching for errors or evidence of fraud.

Lopez Obrador's campaign team said they found vote tally sheets were different from actual votes in about 60 percent of the ballot boxes examined, and that 18 percent had been opened after the elections.

However, National Action officials told reporters their observers had witnessed no major irregularities in any partial recount and said a recount in western Jalisco state gave Calderon about 2,000 additional votes.

The partial recount must finish by Sunday. The Federal Electoral Tribunal will review the results and can then declare a president-elect by Sept. 6, annul the election or order a greater recount.

Lopez Obrador has called on supporters to escalate their protests nationwide.

For more than a week, Lopez Obrador's supporters have been camped along the capital's main Reforma Avenue and the central Zocalo plaza, halting traffic and commerce and trying the patience of many of the 23 million people who live and work in the Mexico City metropolitan area.

Calderon's National Action Party officials said Wednesday their observers found no major irregularities and that a recount in western Jalisco state gave Calderon about 2,000 additional votes.

© 2006 The Associated Press