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Lopez Obrador Supporters Occupy Heart of Mexico City

Posted in the database on Monday, July 31st, 2006 @ 17:37:26 MST (3324 views)
by Pablo Perez    AFP  

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Supporters of Mexican presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador rally in Mexico City, blocking major arteries in the heart of Mexico City and vowing to hold their ground until the electoral court orders a vote recount(AFP/Micphotopress/Fernando Castillo)

Supporters of a defeated Mexican leftist presidential candidate blocked major arteries in the heart of Mexico City and vowed to hold their ground until the electoral court orders a vote recount.

Hours earlier, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador rallied more than one million supporters in the capital to denounce alleged election fraud they blamed for his narrow defeat four weeks ago.

"I proposed to them that we stay here, in a permanent assembly, until the resolution of the (electoral) court," the former Mexico City mayor said at the rally in El Zocalo, the main square of the capital.

Government officials said some 1.2 million of his supporters filled the capital's streets chanting "no to fraud" and calling for a vote-by-vote recount of the 41.7 million ballots cast in the July 2 election.

Lopez Obrador asked his backers to set up 47 camping sites across the gridlocked city's main thoroughfares, promising they would be entertained with art and performances while peacefully lobbying for his cause.

"I told them I myself will be living in one of those sites while we are holding these meetings," he said.

"I know that what I propose is not easy, but it is essential for our cause."

Five hours after his speech, dozens of tents were already installed on two of the capital's main arteries as the sit-ins got under way ahead of the Monday morning rush hour.

Hundreds of protesters had begun to block the Paseo de la Reforma, the major road that bisects the capital north to south, which earlier in the day had been crammed with marchers.

Sunday's protest was the third demonstration in support of Lopez Obrador, who was bested by conservative Felipe Calderon in the polls by a bare 0.58 percentage point margin.

Lopez Obrador has formally filed complaints with the elections court citing evidence of cheating.

On July 18 his Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) sent an 836-page document to the court claiming that the vote was invalid. They have also supplied videos and other alleged evidence of cheating to back their claim.

The electoral court, which has the power to call a partial or a full vote recount, must declare the official victor in the poll by September 6. The winner will assume the presidency on December 1.

Lopez Obrador maintains that if the court does not order a full recount it will be covering up "general election fraud" to Calderon's benefit.

"I am the president of Mexico ... In a recount I will win the election. Despite all the government fraud, we won on July 2," he said on the Univision television network.

For their part, Calderon's supporters in the National Action Party branded Lopez Obrador's statements as "schizophrenic", and insisted that Calderon has not deceived Mexico's people.

"It is not possible, it is not necessary to deceive people about anything using claims and suspicions. Personal beliefs must be put aside for a course through institutional channels established by law," Calderon said.

The rally Sunday was the largest for Lopez Obrador since the election. On July 16, 800,000 people across the country demonstrated to support his cause, and he has since called for a campaign of "peaceful resistance".


Mexico Rising: Follow the Yellow Brick Road

by Mitchel Cohen

Demonstration in Zocalo square (Mexico City) Photo: Thomas Paine's Corner

The sea of yellow swept through the veins of Mexico City en route to the Zocalo on Sunday, the platelets returning to the heart. Yellow for clean elections; amarillo for democracy, as manifest in the candidacy of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador who believes that his populist electoral victory in the presidential election three weeks ago was stolen from him and the working class and poor of Mexico who voted for him.

Unlike John Kerry, Obrador, the mayor of Mexico City, did not disappoint the perhaps two million people who completely filled the Zocalo and avenues in every direction for block after block after block. He has presented evidence of fraud at 70,000 polling places to the Supreme Court. And, as his voice echoed from loudspeakers everywhere, he called on his supporters to remain in the Zocalo (after apologizing to the thousands of street vendors who would be inconvenienced by the occupation), setting up dozens of large white tents -- one for each Mexican state -- for the vigil to use to organize itself and expand.

It was impossible to get to the giant central square (zocalo) until long after the rally had ended and the round-the-clock vigil had commenced with cultural festivities. Three members of the Brooklyn Greens, myself, Cathryn Swan, and Robert Gold, along with a grouping of Mexican comrades who helped with the translation, found a shady corner a few blocks away and listened to the crowd's cheers as Obrador announced the occupation of the central square. (Being mayor certainly helps here in Mexico City, as the police were all smiles and supportive of the protests despite the negative media barrage that batters Obrador and his working class base on a daily basis.)

Earlier, we inched our way down Avenida Juarez, where artists had hung dozens of dramatic paintings and historic quotations about the need for democracy. A few days ago, right wing vandals slashed a number of the artworks, each around 12 feet wide. When the artists returned to repair them, they found that hundreds of people had already shown up to defend the art, and people from the neighborhoods had carefully stitched each tattered canvas back together, rendering them even more dramatic.

While the amarillo waves washed down the streets, many focused not on Obrador himself but on the need for free elections, real democracy, an end to the corruption of all of the institutional political parties. Obrador has become the symbol of that movement, that hope. Not that he will be able to solve the momentous problems Mexico faces, particularly in the face of International Monetary Fund and U.S. economic pressures (which are intense). But, they feel that at least Obrador is honest and will clean house.

It remains to be seen how this movement for democracy will play out. The Zapatistas, for instance, were critical of Obrador as a candidate but many EZLN supporters were evident in the crowd demanding free elections and supporting the movement. We stopped at one EZLN tent in which Zapatista supporters displayed pictures of numerous political prisoners in Mexico and raised funds for their defense. Other tents contained literature from scores of political organizations, and giant banners sweated their slogans in the hot Mexican sun. One political party even hung huge pictures of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin across one section of the plaza, and elsewhere anarchist symbols and sentiments were much in evidence.

On a personal note, I can only wonder what would have happened in the U.S. had John Kerry or Al Gore called for protests and occupations of public spaces across the United States. Would the world look very different today had they done so? The swiftness with which both abandoned those who voted for them, who voted against war and for civil liberties and the environment, becomes even more despicable when contrasted with the opposite approach being taken today in Mexico by the possibilities being opened up by Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and the working class and the poor. Even the military has become more questioning of its support for the history of scandalous electoral fraud in Mexico.

A revolution is brewing in Mexico, one that for now is non-violent, powerful, and visible everywhere. Can the movement be co-opted? Will Obrador betray his base? The Zapatistas understand that the revolution proceeds on many fronts. As of this Sunday, the revolution has taken a giant step forward. What will happen tomorrow is anyone's guess. But, for now, these are very exciting times, and the hopes of a huge swath of humanity rides on the ability of the Mexican people to reclaim liberty, not only for themselves but for the rest of us as well.

Mitchel Cohen is a member of the Brooklyn Greens/Green Party, writing from Mexico City.


Read from Looking Glass News

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