Thursday, September 14, 2006

Fox Cancels Mexico City Sept. 16 Celebration

Fox Cancels Mexico City Independence Day Celebration (Update1)
By Patrick Harrington

Sept. 14 (Bloomberg) -- Mexican President Vicente Fox canceled plans to kick off Independence Day celebrations in Mexico City tomorrow to avoid potentially violent clashes with election protesters.

Fox will instead hold an Independence Day ceremony tomorrow in Guanajuato state, where Mexico's movement to separate from Spain began, Interior Minister Carlos Abascal said at a press conference in the capital. Fox's decision follows an agreement passed by Mexico's Senate today asking him to relocate the celebration.

The cancellation marks the second time this month protesters loyal to Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador have forced Fox to abandon an official celebration. The disruptions orchestrated so far by Lopez Obrador, who finished second in Mexico's July 2 presidential election, raise concern that President-elect Felipe Calderon may be hamstrung in his efforts to govern after he takes office Dec. 1.

``Lopez Obrador is still the leader of an ill-defined opposition movement that will continue for the near future,'' said Juan Lindau, chairman of the political science department at Colorado College in Colorado Springs. ``I don't see the protests going away in the next six months to a year.''

Supporters loyal to Lopez Obrador blocked Fox from giving his final State of the Nation address before Congress on Sept. 1.

Leaders of three Mexican political parties today formed a coalition to oppose Calderon in Congress, a move that will make it tougher for him to push through legislation allowing private investment in the oil industry.

Countering `Right Wing'

Lopez Obrador's Party of the Democratic Revolution united with the Workers' Party and the Convergence Party to counter what they call a ``right-wing movement'' led by Calderon. The three-party front holds 157 seats in the 500-seat lower house and 34 seats in the 128-member Senate.

``We're never going to negotiate with Calderon because he's an illegitimate president,'' said Jesus Ortega, Lopez Obrador's campaign manager and a former senator. ``We're going to be in the streets as well as in Congress.''

Such a coalition may thwart Calderon's promise to amend Mexico's constitution to allow private investment in the oil industry -- a key to bolstering growth in Latin America's second- biggest economy -- and to change legislation to allow oral testimony from crime victims. Amendments require a two-thirds majority in Congress in Mexico.

Calderon, 44, has vowed to shift his agenda to placate supporters of Lopez Obrador. The new government plans to add 60 billion pesos ($5.5 billion) of spending in the first year to broaden access to health care, housing subsidies and other government benefits for Mexico's poor, Ernesto Cordero, the public policy chief in Calderon's transition team, said in an interview.


Mexico's electoral court last week confirmed Calderon as the winner of the July 2 presidential election, the closest in the country's history. He is scheduled to take office in December.

The opposition coalition will probably remain united against Calderon for at least a year before weakening as mid-term elections approach in 2009, said Jorge Chabat, a political scientist with the Center for Economic Research and Teaching in Mexico City. Voters will replace all 500 lower-house deputies during the mid-term contest because they cannot seek re-election under Mexican law.

``Opposition to Calderon is strong now because the presidential election just took place,'' Chabat said in a telephone interview. ``In one or two years these parties are going to have to start thinking about the consequences of their actions and how they affect voter intentions.''

To contact the reporter on this story: Patrick Harrington in Mexico City at

Last Updated: September 14, 2006 17:33 EDT

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