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Mexican Lawmakers Block Fox's Speech

More than an hour after retreating from the congressional building, Fox appeared on television in what appeared to be a pre-taped address to the nation, complete with cutaway shots of street scenes and him presiding at government events. The television appearance, though, was later overshadowed by heated debate about his inability to deliver his speech to Mexican lawmakers.

In the State of the Nation speech, Fox had planned to tout his accomplishments and to take a broadside at López Obrador, who has said Mexico's new democratic institutions -- including its election commission and special election court -- are failures.

"In a democratic Mexico, the engine of change is citizens' votes, not vetoing institutions," Fox's speech read, according to a text distributed by his office.

Fox's departure from the legislative building, which is in the poor San Lazaro neighborhood of Mexico City, capped a strange sequence of events that captivated this city. First, thousands of police officers in riot gear surrounded the legislative building, anticipating a full-frontal assault by thousands of López Obrador supporters.

The masses of protesters never materialized. Dozens of street vendors who had anticipated a big crowd stood idle on the streets leading to the building. Police officers practiced using their shields to block violent demonstrators, squatting and rising repeatedly. With nothing better to do, many drifted toward the vendors, then marched back to their positions eating popsicles.

While the police waited for an onslaught that never came, López Obrador convened his latest in a series of dozens of "informative assemblies" in the large downtown square, the Zocalo, where thousands of his followers have been camping for the past month.

"Only the unjust resort to violence," he told the crowd.

More important, he told supporters to stay in place instead of marching to the legislative building as everyone had expected. The crowd cheered wildly, hanging on every word from López Obrador, who has vowed to form a parallel government and not accept Calderón's ascendancy to Mexico's highest office.

López Obrador's crowds had slackened in recent weeks, but on Friday there was a renewed sense of energy as thousands of college students, recently returned from summer break, poured into the square. López Obrador pounded the lectern, having once again seized center stage.

While López Obrador spoke, and later as Fox was being turned away, Calderón -- the man who will soon likely lead this country -- was nowhere to be seen.


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