Mexico’s leftwing candidate threatens unrest

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A top aide to Andrés Manuel López Obrador, Mexico’s leftwing presidential candidate, on Monday promised to incite widespread acts of “civil resistance” to protest the leftwing leader’s narrow defeat at this month’s presidential elections.

Manuel Camacho, one of Mr López Obrador’s key strategists and a congressman for his Democratic Revolution Party (PRD), told the FT the idea was to “raise the cost for the government of maintaining its discriminative attitude” towards those who voted for the PRD on July 2.

His comments echo a call made at one of the biggest demonstrations in Mexico’s history on Sunday by Mr López Obrador, and confirm a clear radicalisation of strategy since an official vote count put Mr López Obrador 0.58 per cent, or 243,000 votes, behind Felipe Calderón, of the ruling centre-right National Action party.

Mr López Obrador has refused to accept defeat, and has demanded that the country’s Federal Electoral Tribunal (TEPJF) order a recount or annul the election altogether.

He has accused officials at the Federal Electoral Institute (IFE), which organised the election, of “manipulating the count”, and recently called President Vicente Fox, of Mr Calderón’s PAN party, “a traitor to democracy” for having allegedly used his power to ensure Mr Calderón’s victory.

Last week, Mr Calderón criticised Mr López Obrador’s use of protests, saying elections “are won with votes, not in the streets”. The leftwing candidate’s attitude “robs credibility from himself and hugely reduces the political capital he has gained”, he said.

Mr Camacho would not give details of what the civic resistance would entail – although he stressed that it would be “within the confines of the law”, but said it would also be “disruptive. We want to maintain an element of surprise”.

“Mexico is in crisis,” he said. “The president and the rightwing candidate have to put their feet on the ground and realise they won’t be able to govern if they keep on ignoring the will of the people.”

On Sunday more than a million people, according to local police considered sympathetic to Mr López Obrador, marched through the streets of Mexico City to demand a full recount of votes.

Mr López Obrador told supporters draped in the golden colours of his PRD party: “Not even the water from all the oceans in the world can remove the stain of a fraudulent election.”

Mr Camacho claimed that the demonstration was the biggest ever staged in the capital – between 1.3m and 1.5m – and said the marches would continue to escalate until the authorities ordered a recount of the vote. The next demonstration, scheduled for July 30, would likely involve protests in all of Mexico’s main cities as well as in the capital city, he said.

He dismissed a telephone opinion poll published by the Reforma daily newspaper at the weekend suggesting that 60 per cent of Mexicans trusted the election result, and expressed confidence that the street protests would help sway the country’s electoral tribunal, which must either endorse the result or chose an alternative course of action – including a recount – by September 6.

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