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Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Mexico leftist to create parallel gov't

MEXICO CITY (AP)- Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, convinced he won't be awarded the presidency, has vowed to create a parallel leftist government and is urging Mexicans not to recognize the apparent victory of the ruling party's Felipe Calderon.

While his party lacks the seats in Congress to block legislation, Lopez Obrador can mobilize millions to pressure his conservative rival to adopt the left's agenda — or to clamp down and risk a backlash.

Both scenarios are possibilities as the former Mexico City mayor lays out plans to create his own government to rule from the streets, with the support of thousands who are already occupying protest camps throughout downtown Mexico City.

Some predict his parallel initiative — which Lopez Obrador's supporters call the "legitimate government" — could turn those protest camps into the core of a violent revolt, especially if the government tries to shut it down.

Such violence broke out in the southern city of Oaxaca after Gov. Ulises Ruiz sent police to evict striking teachers. Outraged citizens' groups joined the protests, setting fire to buildings and public buses, seizing radio and TV stations and forcing the closure of businesses in a city known throughout the world as a quaint tourist destination.

"Everything we do, from property taxes to permits to natural resources, will go through the 'legitimate government,'" said Severina Martinez, a school teacher from Oaxaca camped out in a tent in Mexico City's main Zocalo plaza. "We won't have anything to do with the official government."

Some supporters took out a newspaper ad Tuesday, calling on Lopez Obrador to set up his own treasury department and said all Mexicans "should channel federal revenues to the new treasury department."

Lopez Obrador is encouraging his followers to disobey Calderon, whose 240,000-vote advantage was confirmed Monday by the country's top electoral court. The seven magistrates stopped short of declaring Calderon president-elect, but they have only a week to declare a winner or annul the election.

"We do not recognize Felipe Calderon as president, nor any officials he appoints, nor any acts carried out by his de-facto government," Lopez Obrador said after the court ruling, which he claims overlooked evidence of fraud in the July 2 elections.

Lopez Obrador's Democratic Revolution Party, or PRD, increased its number of congressional seats in those elections and became the second-largest bloc, behind Calderon's National Action Party, on Tuesday as new lawmakers were sworn in.

But it holds only a quarter of the seats — not enough to block legislation, especially if Calderon forges a likely alliance with the former ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party. That alliance would hold a majority in each house of Congress.

Lopez Obrador has ruled out negotiations with what he calls the "spurious" and "imposed" government. Because PRD legislators fear crossing him or his fervent followers, they can't cut deals to get their own legislation approved, making them even weaker.

"There is no possibility that we federal legislators in Congress will start any dialogue with the government," said PRD Senate leader Carlos Navarette, considered one of the party's moderates. "We will never forget that the leader and director of the Mexican people's action and the left is Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador."

Lopez Obrador's plan is to have his government help the poor, oppose privatizations and make the news media — which he has accused of ignoring him — more "truthful and objective."

It's not clear how he plans to do that, but his supporters are already planning to hold an alternative swearing in ceremony to rival the official inauguration on Dec. 1.

People close to Lopez Obrador say he is assuming the role of his hero, 18th century President Benito Juarez, who led a roving, "unofficial" presidency from 1863 to 1867 during the French invasion, before driving out the invaders and executing the French-installed Emperor Maximilian.

"Juarez ran the government from a carriage and restored the republic," said Rosario Ibarra, a human rights activist who frequently shares the stage with Lopez Obrador at his rallies. "We just hope there won't be any need to shoot anyone."

So far, protesters have only scuffled with police. Some fear the movement could turn violent, although Lopez Obrador says it will remain peaceful.

The administration of President
Vicente Fox hopes it will all just boil down to some fiery rhetoric and posturing.

"We think this is a symbolic, political act that has no validity in the affairs of state," Fox's spokesman, Ruben Aguilar, said Tuesday. Asked about Lopez Obrador's plan to declare himself head of state, Aguilar noted that "in this country, everyone is free to say whatever they want."

There is no question that Lopez Obrador is taking his "legitimate government" or "government in resistance" — the exact title has yet to be determined — very seriously.

Asked whether Lopez Obrador would wear some version of the presidential sash during his swearing-in ceremony, PRD spokesman Gerardo Fernandez accused reporters of poking fun at the candidate. He also upbraided those who spoke of plans for an "alternative government."

"What Andres Manuel has suggested is not an alternative president," Fernandez said. "It will be a legitimate government with a legitimate president."
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