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Mexican presidential frontrunner may be barred from election

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://www.nytimes.com/2005/04/07/international/americas/07cnd-mexico.html?hp Move Against Mexico City Mayor Sets Off Protests By GINGER THOMPSON and JAMES C.
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 7, 2005

      Move Against Mexico City Mayor Sets Off Protests

      Published: April 7, 2005

      MEXICO CITY, April 7 - With the fate of the Mexican
      presidency at stake, hundreds of thousands of people
      thronged this city's central plaza today to support
      the leftist Mayor Andr�s Manuel L�pez Obrador, who
      faced a vote in Congress that could force him off the
      ballots in next year's national elections.

      The lower chamber of deputies today was scheduled to
      approve a measure that would strip Mayor L�pez of his
      official immunity so that he could stand trial in a
      minor land dispute. And since the Mexican Constitution
      holds suspects guilty until proven innocent, Mr. L�pez
      would be banned from politics until the end of the

      In addressing the immense crowd today, the 51-year-old
      Mr. L�pez called the proceedings against him a "farce"
      staged from the offices of Vicente Fox, Mexico's first
      opposition president. He charged that the attempt to
      knock him out of the race for president would
      undermine country's fragile democracy, moving Mexico
      back into a past when the political elite ruled like

      "The move to prosecute me," he said, "returns Mexico
      to authoritarian times when Los Pinos decided who
      would or would not become president." Los Pinos is
      Mexico's presidential mansion.

      Mr. L�pez added that President Fox's National Action
      Party and the Institutional Revolutionary Party, which
      ran this country for seven consecutive decades, had
      forged an unlikely alliance to cripple his left-wing
      movement and maintain the status quo.

      "Whichever of them wins, things remain the same," he
      said. "They maintain a corrupt and privileged regime,
      and will continue devouring the country."

      The case against the mayor has polarized the country
      into two angry camps, raising concerns about civil
      unrest from here to Wall Street. Mr. L�pez's spending
      on social programs and extravagant public works
      projects has made him popular among this country's
      poor masses and its struggling middle class. Meanwhile
      his talk against free trade policies, of renegotiating
      the national debt and substantial increases in social
      spending has brought comparisons of Hugo Ch�vez from
      the wealthy business classes.

      But no matter what side they were on, Mexican
      political leaders, intellectuals and business
      executives have said they considered this a pivotal
      moment in their history that transcends law and order.
      At stake, they said, was not whether or not Mr. L�pez
      committed a minor crime, but the legitimacy of the
      multiparty democracy that emerged when Mr. Fox broke
      the P.R.I.'s hold on power five years ago. Some also
      worried that the case against Mr. L�pez further eroded
      public confidence in the government and would taint
      the mandate of this country's next president.

      Mr. L�pez, who has a history of leading violent
      protests, called on followers this time to mount a
      peaceful campaign of civil disobedience and avoid
      giving into provocation that could lose their movement
      the support of the majority of the people. He made
      clear that he wanted this movement to resemble those
      led by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the
      United States and Gandhi in India. And he added, that
      he was willing to go to jail for his beliefs.

      "Nothing of violence," he ordered the crowds. "No
      falling to provocation. This movement has been and
      will be peaceful. To do otherwise would be to act in
      the logic of our adversaries, and we cannot allow that."
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