Mexico's leftist candidate asks international community for support

Saturday, August 12, 2006

MEXICO CITY -- The leftist presidential candidate who campaigned on a policy that nations should not meddle in each others' affairs urged the international community Friday to push for a full recount of votes in Mexico's disputed July 2 election.

In a New York Times opinion piece, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador also defended his supporters' disruptive daily street protests, saying he didn't have the money for mass advertising and "we can only communicate our demand to count all the votes by peaceful protest."

On Friday, dozens of protesters tried to block the entrance to the tax-collection division of the Treasury Department, targeting the department for a second day in a row.

"We are not going to allow an imposition. We are not going to accept a spurious president without moral or political authority. We are talking seriously," Lopez Obrador told thousands of supporters gathered in Mexico City's central square late Friday.

For nearly two weeks, the protesters have camped out along Reforma Avenue, a main artery running past the city's stock market, local headquarters of international banks and down to the capital's central Zocalo plaza, normally one of Mexico City's chief tourist attractions.

Other actions have included a brief takeover of toll booths on highways leading into the capital, and short-lived blockades of public offices in other states throughout the country.

Lopez Obrador's letter came on the third day of a court-ordered recount of 9 percent of the 130,000 polling places used in the presidential election.

Initial election results gave ruling-party candidate Felipe Calderon an advantage of less than 0.6 percent, or about 240,000 votes, which Lopez Obrador has attributed to fraud and a dirty campaign by his rival.

The seven-judge Federal Electoral Tribunal rejected Lopez Obrador's request for a recount of all 41 million ballots cast in the election, saying the law only permitted vote reviews in those polling places where there is apparent evidence of irregularities or fraud.

"This is simply insufficient for a national election where the margin was less than one percentage point," the candidate wrote. He added: "Without a crystal-clear recount, Mexico will have a president who lacks the moral authority to govern."

During his campaign, Lopez Obrador pledged to return to Mexico's long-standing policy of nonintervention. But his op-ed piece seemed to differ from that.

"We need the good will and support of those in the international community with a personal, philosophical or commercial interest in Mexico to encourage it to do the right thing and allow a full recount that will show, once and for all, that democracy is alive and well in this republic," he wrote.

A call by The Associated Press to a representative of Lopez Obrador's Democratic Revolution Party was not immediately returned Friday.

Electoral authorities overseen by judges and political representatives have until Sunday to finish the partial recount.

The court will review the results and has until Aug. 31 to announce them publicly. The court has until Sept. 6 to declare a president-elect or annul the election.

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