Monday, November 20, 2006

Leftist Obrador establishes parallel government in Mexico

Mexican leftist Lopez Obrador to swear self in as head of parallel government

The Associated Press

Leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador launched a parallel government Monday that will swear him in as Mexico's "legitimate" president, a ceremony he hopes will revive a movement aimed at keeping President-elect Felipe Calderon from governing.

The inauguration ceremony marks the latest chapter in Lopez Obrador's unsuccessful battle for the presidency. He claims fraud and dirty campaign tactics were responsible for Calderon's narrow victory in the July 2 vote, and his parallel government could spend the next six years calling for street protests that have already wreaked havoc with the economy and prompted travel warnings from the U.S. Embassy.

While the red-green-and-white presidential sash to be draped across Lopez Obrador's shoulders Monday will lack any legal recognition, he hopes to assume the moral leadership of millions of poor Mexicans.

Based in Mexico City, Lopez Obrador's parallel government has its own Cabinet. But it will not collect taxes or make laws, and it relies on donations to carry out its plans.

One of its first orders of business will be trying to prevent Calderon's Dec. 1 inauguration ceremony.

"We're not going to give the right free rein," Lopez Obrador said in a final stop in the southeastern state of Veracruz this weekend. "We're going to confront it."

It remains to be seen whether Lopez Obrador can keep up the momentum. Some members of his leftist Democratic Revolution Party, or PRD, have already expressed disagreement with Lopez Obrador's strategy of using Congress — where the PRD is now the second-largest force — as an arena for protests rather than negotiations.

Mexico City columnist Armando Fuentes described Lopez Obrador's "swearing in" ceremony as "laughable" and "a circus act, a farce."

But political science professor Oscar Aguilar cautioned that the leftist could have the backing to undermine Calderon.

"The problem is that he's not a Don Quijote because the social and political conditions are fertile ground for this kind of leadership," Aguilar said. "Many of the poor ... see this type of leadership as a solution."

Protesters in southern Oaxaca City have seized the city center for months, demanding Gov. Ulises Ruiz's ouster, despite the presence of federal police. Many worry that Lopez Obrador will follow suit and renew street protests, including those in which his supporters seized Mexico City's center for nearly two months this summer.

Some citizens appear to be tiring of political unrest.

This month, Mexico City was rattled when several bombs exploded at political offices and banks. No one was injured, and a small, radical group not tied to Lopez Obrador claimed responsibility.

The violence has affected one of the country's main sources of income. Revenue from tourism was down 4.3 percent in the first nine months of 2006, as compared to 2005.

Appealing to the desire for calm, President Vicente Fox cautioned in a speech Monday that "the electoral process is the path that Mexicans have to preserve a peaceful, orderly, civilized and pluralistic public and political life."

Fox canceled a traditional Nov. 20 parade commemorating the start of the country's 1910-1917 Revolution, in an apparent bid to avoid friction with Lopez Obrador's event, which is also scheduled for Mexico City's main plaza.

On Monday, he urged Mexicans to follow the path of democracy.

"Nobody has the right to think or decide for the people," Fox said.

But Lopez Obrador's platform resonates with many Mexicans, so much so that the business-friendly Calderon from Fox's conservative National Action Party has borrowed ideas from Lopez Obrador's legislative agenda, like pensions for the elderly and reductions in utility rates for the poor.

Some of Lopez Obrador's closest aides have suggested they will follow Bolivia's example and try to use protests to force Calderon from office, as demonstrators did with a succession of leaders there. Lopez Obrador hasn't ruled that out.

"Nobody wants violence in our country, but there are people who give grounds for violence," Lopez Obrador said last week. "There are a lot of people who say that, after July 2, the path of electoral politics in no longer viable."

Copyright © 2006 The International Herald Tribune |

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