Fri, Aug 04, 2006 - Page 7 News List

Mexico's Calderon urges peace

`WORK TOGETHER' Felipe Calderon said he had won the presidential election fairly, but his leftist opponent said he would continue to wait for a court ruling on a recount


Conservative Felipe Calderon said he won Mexico's disputed presidential election fairly and called for peace as a sprawling protest camp favoring his leftist opponent continues to choke off much of the capital's financial and cultural heart.

The former energy secretary called "on all Mexicans to safeguard peace and work together for a Mexico that's more prosperous and fair," in a nationally televised address late on Wednesday.

"I have acted responsibly and not let myself be provoked because I firmly believe in the power of peace and because we won cleanly," he said.

The official results from the July 2 election -- awaiting certification by Mexico's top electoral court -- gave Calderon an advantage of less than 0.6 percent, or about 240,000 votes.

His comments came shortly after his rival, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, told supporters to continue blocking Mexico City's stylish Reforma Avenue and maintain a sprawling tent city in the central plaza until the electoral court rules on his request for a vote-by-vote recount.

He claims a recount will expose fraud that tilted the race in Calderon's favor.

Court decision

Lopez Obrador, who stepped down as Mexico City's mayor to run for president, said that street blockades aside, no further civil resistance was planned until the court decides on the full recount.

He said that decision would come in three days or less, though it was unclear what led him to that assumption. The Federal Electoral Tribunal has until Sept. 6 to declare a president-elect or annul the election, after weighing challenges filed by both sides.

"Our measures are annoying to some people but we have to convince these people that it will be much worse if democracy is damaged," Lopez Obrador said. "We don't want a small group deciding who will be president of Mexico."

He added: "We are making history," as thousands of followers chanted, "If there's no solution, they'll be revolution!"

Hours later, a violent rain storm dumped hail on much of Mexico City, knocking out electricity and sparking widespread flooding of streets, homes and businesses. Yet tens of thousands of protesters remained huddled under their tents, refusing to give up their posts.

Street blocked

Protesters have laid siege to much of downtown Mexico City since Sunday, prompting President Vicente Fox and a congressional committee to urge city officials to intervene.

The president, who had previously stayed on the sidelines of the dispute, said that the tent cities occupying a 8.5km stretch of Reforma were "putting at risk jobs and economic activity."

A congressional leadership committee subsequently approved a nonbinding resolution urging Mexico City Mayor Alejandro Encinas to reopen the city's streets "to ensure the right of freedom of movement for all citizens."

Lopez Obrador responded with an apparent swipe at the president.

"Many people voted in 2000 thinking there was going to be a chance," he said of Fox's election. "But they are doing things the same way or worse."

City residents often grumble when protesters march along Reforma from the central plaza's government center to the presidential residence of Los Pinos, since it divides much of the city in half when closed down. But such marches usually take only a few hours -- this occupation has crippled traffic and caused other heads for days.

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