Sun, Sep 03, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Opposition stops Mexican leader's national address

LIVE ON TV Blocked by Lopez Obrador's followers, President Fox delivered his state address on television, saying the country needs harmony, not anarchy

AGENCIES , MEXICO CITY

President Vicente Fox called on Mexicans to overcome their deep political divisions in a state of the nation speech that he was forced to deliver over television after protests by leftist lawmakers kept him from addressing Congress.

Fox was forced to abandon his last state address to Congress on Friday after leftist lawmakers alleging election fraud seized the podium and refused to let him speak.

Shortly before Fox was due to give his speech, dozens of legislators who support leftist presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador marched up to the podium, some with banners calling Fox a traitor to democracy.

Fox, who leaves office in December, avoided a more serious showdown with those who contend Lopez Obrador was robbed of the election by simply handing in a written copy of his report -- as the Constitution requires -- and announced over the loudspeaker that he wouldn't appear before lawmakers. He did not enter the chambers, and Congress was adjourned.

"Faced with the attitude of a group of legislators that makes it impossible to read the speech I have prepared for this occasion, I am leaving the building," Fox said in the lobby of Congress before walking out.

In a televised address to the nation later that day, Fox said the protest that silenced him was "not an affront to me personally but to the office of the president and the Mexican people."

In the streets outside Congress, small groups of left-wing protesters threw rocks and bottles at lines of riot police, but there were no serious clashes.

It was the first time in Mexican history that opposition legislators have blocked the president's annual address and marked an escalation of a crisis that has rocked the country since a bitterly contested July 2 presidential election.

Lopez Obrador has led supporters in huge street protests in the last two months and his Party of the Democratic Revolution had vowed to deny Fox a platform in Congress on Friday.

Fox took a swipe back at his rival in his televised address.

"Whoever attacks our laws and institutions attacks our history, attacks Mexico," he said. "Mexico demands harmony, not anarchy."

Fox's approval rating hit 68 percent, its highest level since 2001, in a Reforma newspaper poll on Friday. Another poll in El Universal showed him with a 67 percent rating.

Many Mexicans like Fox's affable style and he is credited with stabilizing Mexico's economy and opening government to public scrutiny after decades of authoritarian rule.

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