Tue, Nov 21, 2006 - Page 7 News List

Mexican opposition installs own Cabinet and `government'

AP , MEXICO CITY

Since narrowly losing Mexico's presidential election, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has led massive protests claiming that fraud robbed him of victory. Now, he has set up a parallel government and even named a Cabinet.

Yesterday, the fiery leftist planned to be sworn in as "Mexico's legitimate president" -- thumbing his nose at the nation's highest electoral court, which declared conservative Felipe Calderon the presidential election winner by less than 1 percentage point.

Based in Mexico City, the parallel government will not try to collect taxes or make laws. It will have one objective: to hamper Calderon during his six-year term that begins on Dec. 1.

His supporters have pledged to block Calderon's swearing-in ceremony before the Mexican Congress, although they have not announced how they plan to do so.

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

According to Lopez Obrador's Web site, the campaign has opened bank accounts where Mexicans can donate money for his parallel government.

But it remains to be seen whether the man who claims the elections were tainted to favor the rich can keep up momentum.

Besieged by protests since the disputed July 2 presidential elections, many Mexicans are tired of political strife.

The upheaval has taken a heavy toll on the country's tourism industry, one of Mexico's main income generators.

Columnist Rene Aviles called on Calderon to put things in order when he takes office. President Vicente Fox has been criticized for his hands-off approach to the conflicts.

"If Calderon wants to govern without so many blunders, he should start with a firm hand," Aviles wrote in the Mexico City newspaper Excelsior on Sunday.

Lopez Obrador also faces a challenge in uniting his Democratic Revolution Party. Some within the party have started to distance themselves from his civil resistance campaign, fearing they will lose support.

Others say Mexico needs strong action to focus more attention on its millions of poor and Lopez Obrador, a former Mexico City mayor, is the man to do that.

Lopez Obrador's platform resonated with many Mexicans, forcing the business-friendly Calderon from Fox's conservative National Action Party to take note. He has borrowed heavily from ideas in Lopez Obrador's legislative agenda, including calling for universal health care.

The leftist's parallel government "could create the organization that is necessary to steer the country in a new economic direction," columnist Rosa Albina wrote in the Mexico City newspaper Reforma on Sunday.

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