As many as 400,000 people turned out to protest what they said was a fraudulent conservative victory in Mexico’s presidential election, which the leftist candidate challenged in court, organizers said.
“What we are requesting is that the votes be recounted so that our triumph be demonstrated,” said leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, insisting he would demonstrate in court the July 2 election was plagued with irregularities.
He made it clear he was taking his protest both to the courts and to the streets.
Hundreds of thousands of his supporters massed on Mexico City’s downtown Zocalo Square to protest what the outcome of the balloting that gave conservative Felipe Calderon, of the ruling National Action Party (PAN,) the narrowest victory ever in a Mexican presidential election. And the crowd continued to grow.
“It was a massive fraud, those right-winger sure know how to cheat,” said Angel Farfan, 60, as the crowd chanted “Obrador president,” and hold up banners that proclaimed: “No to bloody fraud.”
Lopez Obrador said his lawyers would demonstrate to the courts that the entire electoral process was warped.
“The process was plagued by irregularities,” the standard-bearer of the leftist Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) said at a news conference ahead of the rally.
“The votes were counted but were badly counted. They were counted to favor the right-wing candidate,” he said, claiming electoral authorities manipulated the process.
He also claimed that President
Vicente Fox illegally interfered in the campaign in favor of Calderon, that the PAN had far exceeded campaign spending limits, and that the governing party bought votes.
The lawyers will present their challenge to the Federal Electoral Tribunal on Sunday, and will also file complaints with the Supreme Court, which can issue recommendations to the tribunal, the final arbiter of electoral disputes.
Lopez Obrador made it clear he will also take his protest to the streets, saying Saturday’s demonstration would be the first of several such actions, but insisting the rallies would be peaceful.
The former Mexico City mayor lashed out at Calderon, claiming the Harvard-trained conservative served “a very powerful interest group in Mexico that for quite a while has converted the government into a committee at the service of a minority.”
“This group not only has no interest in improving the life of millions of Mexicans, but has profound contempt for the poor.”
Asked about foreign leaders, including US
President George W. Bush, who congratulated Calderon on his victory, Lopez Obrador insisted “there is no president-elect in Mexico.”
The electoral tribunal has until September 6 to render its final verdict on the outcome of the July 2 election.
Calderon, 43, who won with an advantage of just over 244,000 votes, or 0.6 percentage points, dismissed his rival’s claims, and a number of international observers called the election free and fair.
He insisted now was the time for Mexicans to put the campaign disputes behind them and work to create a politically stable country attractive to foreign investors.
Speaking to journalists on Friday, Calderon said that battling poverty, which affects half the 103 million population, would be one of his top priorities.
He urged the United States to invest in economically depressed areas of Mexico to create badly-needed jobs.
This he said would be far more effective in halting illegal migration to the United States than a wall the US administration plans to build along the border. Last year, an estimated 400,000 Mexicans crossed the border illegally, often risking their lives trekking along deserts and arid mountains.
The next president will have to deal with a divided Congress, after the PAN got the most votes for the House and the Senate but fell well short of an outright majority. AFP