Mexico's Lopez Obrador Mounts 'Parallel Goverment'
LIANE HANSEN, host:
Mexico now has two presidents. Supporters of the leftist candidate who was officially declared the loser of the elections over the summer have named Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador the legitimate president of Mexico after they claim that the July 2 vote was rigged. He will head a parallel government that will oppose the official president-elect, Felipe Calderon. NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro reports from Mexico City.
LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO: First came the blessing. A group of indigenous Mexicans from Chiapas burned incense and gave flower offerings in a sacred ceremony enacted in the middle of Mexico City's main square, the Zocalo. Some had walked for days to participate. But still, the convention called by Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador had an inauspicious start.
(Soundbite of rain)
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Just as he was set to take the stage, it didn't just rain, it poured. While his supporters huddled, waiting for the storm to pass, Lopez Obrador came out from under his umbrella and deliberately got soaked, too, to cheers from the crowd.
(Soundbite of crowd)
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yesterday was slated as a Democratic convention, though it actually seemed like it was emulating a schoolroom civics lesson. Those in attendance were asked to vote on a series of proposals by a show of hands.
Mr. ANDRES MANUEL LOPEZ OBRADOR (Mexican Presidential Candidate): (Speaking foreign language).
GARCIA-NAVARRO: They were first asked if they would reject the leadership of the official president-elect, Felipe Calderon.
Mr. OBRADOR: (Speaking foreign language)
GARCIA-NAVARRO: The were asked if they would recognize the triumph of Lopez Obrador in the polls. And then they were asked to raise their hand if they wanted him to be declared the legitimate president of Mexico.
Unidentified Woman (Obrador Supporter): (Speaking foreign language)
(Soundbite of cheering)
GARCIA-NAVARRO: To wild cheers, the man that they had followed for months, after a bitter election campaign and an even more divisive post-election process, was proclaimed Mexico's new leader. Lopez Obrador took to the podium and told the crowd that he would form a cabinet, and then travel around the country as an itinerant president.
Mr. OBRADOR: (Through translator) Accepting this position as president is an act of peaceful civil resistance, and it is what is best for our movement. The message we are sending is, take that so you learn to respect the popular will.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: On Friday, the protest tents that had been occupying the Zocalo and a main street were taken down. It's clear that Lopez Obrador will have to keep his followers motivated if he doesn't want his movement to lose more steam.
At the convention, his supporters were asked to now peacefully protest at all Felipe Calderon's public events, to boycott companies like Coca Cola that Lopez Obrador charges illegally helped Calderon to win the election, and to stand behind TV journalists while they're doing their live shots with signs and banners. A series of dates were also announced for big rallies, the first of which will be Lopez Obrador's inauguration on November 20th.
Mr. OBRADOR: (Through translator) We are here to tell the men of the old regime that we will never surrender, and we're here to tell the four winds that we will defend the right of our people to hope.
(Soundbite of crowd chanting)
GARCIA-NAVARRO: There was a large turnout at yesterday's convention, and after the meeting ended, Lopez Obrador loyalists left the square chanting, we see it, we feel it, we have a president. Futillio Anderade(ph) was among them. He is from the state of Oaxaca.
Mr. FUTILLIO ANDERADE (Obrador Supporter): (Through translator) Calderon's situation is very difficult. Half the country didn't vote for him. Add to that that many believe there was fraud. I think he's going to have a very hard time.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: So too may Lopez Obrador. Felipe Calderon assumes power on December 1st. The big question now is how relevant the leftist leader can and will stay.
Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, NPR News, Mexico City.
LIANE HANSEN: You're listening to NPR News.