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Mexico Election Protesters Vow 'Siege'

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The Associated Press
Tuesday, August 15, 2006; 9:40 PM

MEXICO CITY -- Supporters of leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador pledged Tuesday to place conservative Felipe Calderon "under siege" if he is declared the winner of the disputed presidential elections.

Supporters of Calderon, who holds a slight advantage in official vote counts on the July 2 race, meanwhile accused Lopez Obrador of wanting to make blood flow in the conflict.

The heightened rhetoric came one day after the first violent incident in a month of protests police saw protesters clash with police outside the Congress building in Mexico City; the leftists plan another march on Congress on Sept. 1, and also plan to continue blockading some streets in Mexico City through Sept. 16, the date of the traditional Independence Day parade.

"He will be a president under siege ... he will not be able to operate outside his office," Gerardo Fernandez, spokesman for Lopez Obrador's Democratic Revolution Party, said of Calderon.

Lopez Obrador has said he "will not accept" Calderon as president. He claims the race was marred by fraud and has demanded a full recount, and his supporters tried to set up a protest camp outside Congress on Monday to press that demand.

When police tried to remove protesters, some resisted or attacked police, and about 8 demonstrators _ including at least two leftist lawmakers _ were slightly injured in the confrontation. Fernandez said protesters will again try to march on Congress on Sept. 1, when President Vicente Fox is scheduled to deliver his last state-of-the-nation address, and promised the day "will not be a picnic" for the president.

Manuel Espino, the leader of Calderon's National Action Party, warned that Mexican "can expect more such acts by the most radical, virulent and provocative wing of the PRD," as Lopez Obrador's Party is known.

"Nothing justifies the blood and fire that Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and his followers want to achieve," ESpino told reporters.

The tribunal has until Aug. 31 to reveal the findings of its partial recount and to resolve all other electoral disputes. Lopez Obrador, however, has called on his supporters to keep demonstrating for years if they have to.

On Tuesday, federal police erected steel barriers around the Congress buildings after the most violent episode yet. Federal police chief Eduardo Medina Mora defended his officers' actions in the Monday confrontation.

"I don't see that there was any act of repression here, I see operational procedure," said Mora. "We regret the confrontations, but if they are inevitable then that's just the way it is. It has to be done."

Lopez Obrador insists a full recount of all 41 million votes would expose fraud in the vote count that gave Calderon of the conservative National Action Party an advantage of about 244,000 votes. But observers of the partial recount ordered by the tribunal have said it's not likely to swing the election.

Democratic Revolution officials said their own tally showed that with most of the recount complete, Calderon had lost about 14,000 votes, while Lopez Obrador had gained 112. National Action officials, for their part, said Calderon had lost no more than 1,500 votes.

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© 2006 The Associated Press

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