Mexico President-Elect Begins Transition

The Associated Press
Thursday, September 7, 2006; 12:24 AM

MEXICO CITY -- Newly named President-elect Felipe Calderon started building his administration Wednesday, appealing to the middle-class voters who fueled his slim victory and working to win over poor Mexicans who believe he stole the election.

The conservative former energy secretary discussed the 2007 budget and the logistics of the transition with the man he will replace, President Vicente Fox. He continued to call for unity in a nation torn by a bitter presidential campaign and an even nastier postelection fight.

Calderon said he would consider including key leaders from opposition parties in his Cabinet, and would focus on creating jobs, reducing poverty and stopping a rise in crime.

"I am going to be a president for everyone, without making distinctions. A president driven by fairness and equality," he said. "That's my job, regardless of whomever someone voted for."

Calderon has offered to sit down and negotiate with Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the leftist former Mexico City mayor he barely beat in the July 2 election. But Lopez Obrador says he will never recognize a Calderon presidency and he's not interested in negotiations with the man he has labeled a fraudulent victor.

President Bush called Fox early Wednesday and congratulated the government on the "strength of Mexican democracy and stability of Mexico's institutions," according to Fox's spokesman. He later called Calderon to offer personal congratulations.

"The president and the president-elect discussed the U.S.-Mexico relationship and their commitment to build on the existing foundation of strong cooperation," White House National Security Council spokesman Frederick Jones said. "The two also expressed their interest in meeting at the earliest, mutually convenient opportunity."

On Wednesday evening, protesters spit at an electoral court judge as she arrived for a ceremony marking Calderon's designation as president-elect. Calderon arrived early, entering the court through a back door away from the protesters.

After accepting the designation, he reiterated his promise to lead an open government in which all disputes would be resolved within the law, an indirect reference to Lopez Obrador's ongoing resistance movement.

Dozens of federal police stood guard outside the court.

Thousands of Lopez Obrador supporters continue to block Mexico City's stylish Reforma boulevard, their sprawling protest camps filling the historic city center.

"We are going to fight all of this," said protester Gerardo Fernandez. "We aren't going to let (Calderon) take office."

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2006 The Associated Press