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Mexico's president takes office amid fistfights

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/15981920/ Mexico s president takes office amid fistfights Felipe Calderon sworn-in after disputed election, lawmakers’ brawl
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 1, 2006
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      http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/15981920/

      Mexico's president takes office amid fistfights
      Felipe Calderon sworn-in after disputed election,
      lawmakers’ brawl

      Updated: 10:36 a.m. MT Dec 1, 2006

      MEXICO CITY - Felipe Calderon took the oath of office
      as Mexico’s president Friday amid jeers and whistles,
      in a lightning-fast ceremony before congress that was
      preceded by a brawl between lawmakers divided over the
      tight presidential election.

      Calderon entered through a back door and appeared
      suddenly on the speaker’s platform, which was the site
      of three days of fistfights and sit-ins by lawmakers
      seeking to control the stage. Physically protected by
      dozens of lawmakers and flanked by outgoing President
      Vicente Fox, Calderon swore to uphold the constitution
      in comments almost inaudible over the noise.

      Congress’ leader ordered the national anthem played,
      momentarily stilling the catcalls and shouting, before
      Calderon made a quick exit and congress adjourned.
      Foreign dignitaries — including former President
      George H.W. Bush, Colombian President Alvaro Uribe and
      Spanish Prince Felipe Asturias — sat in a balcony
      overlooking the scene.

      “He did it! He did it!” chanted ruling party
      lawmakers.

      Former presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez
      Obrador, of the Democratic Revolution Party, or PRD,
      claims he was robbed of the presidency and has
      declared himself “legitimate president.” He called on
      thousands of supporters in Mexico’s main Zocalo plaza
      to march peacefully to the National Auditorium, where
      Calderon was scheduled to address the nation.

      Political chaos
      His supporters in Congress had seized entrances to the
      congressional chamber Friday morning in an attempt to
      block Calderon from taking office. The leftist
      lawmakers, who draped a giant banner across the
      chamber reading “Mexico doesn’t deserve a traitor to
      democracy as president,” exchanged punches with
      ruling-party lawmakers and erected barricades of
      chairs as Calderon supporters chanted “Mexico wants
      peace.”

      Anticipating the standoff, the conservative Calderon
      took control of the presidential residence hours
      earlier in an unusual midnight ceremony with Fox,
      swearing in part of his Cabinet.

      That left experts on Mexico’s constitution puzzled
      over whether Mexico had a president Friday morning.
      The constitution requires presidents to be sworn in
      “before congress,” and Friday’s brief ceremony in the
      congressional chamber appeared to put the technical
      debate over Calderon’s legitimacy to rest.

      Bush, accompanied by U.S. Ambassador Tony Garza and
      several bodyguards, said the chaos did not bother him.

      “I’m not worried at all. It will work out,” he said,
      adding: “The U.S. will work with him every way we
      can.”

      California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger quipped as he
      arrived: “It’s good action.”

      'Start a new stage'
      Calderon, in the midnight ceremony, acknowledged the
      political chaos.

      “I am not unaware of the complexity of the political
      times we are living through, nor of our differences,”
      he said. “But I am convinced that today we should put
      an end to our disagreements and from there, start a
      new stage whose only aim would be to place the
      interests of the nation above our differences.”

      He was expected to address the nation the nation at
      the heavily guarded National Auditorium on the other
      side of Mexico City. He then planned to go to an
      adjacent military parade ground where army commanders
      will swear allegiance to the elected head of state,
      symbolizing the military’s tradition of staying out of
      politics since the 1930s.
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