Mexican presidential frontrunner may be barred from election
Move Against Mexico City Mayor Sets Off Protests
By GINGER THOMPSON and JAMES C. McKINLEY Jr.
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."