Mexico's Obrador Vows to Continue Fighting for the Presidency
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
More than four months after an election that he officially lost, leftist leader Andres Manuel Lopez-Obrador says he won, and yesterday he declared himself the legitimate president of Mexico. Lopez-Obrador told a crowd of tens of thousands in Mexico City that he will continue to battle against the president-elect. As NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro reports, how much clout the former mayor of Mexico City will continue to have is debatable.
LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO: These are strange and unsettled times in Mexico. A revolt in the state of Oaxaca, a spiraling drug conflict and now two presidents.
(Soundbite of crowd noise)
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Andres Manuel Lopez-Obrador swore himself in as the, quote, "legitimate president of Mexico" yesterday in a ceremony on the Zocalo, the main square in Mexico City. Although it had no legal standing, the event was the symbolic equivalent of laying down the gauntlet to the president-elect, Felipe Calderon, who won the July 2nd vote by less than 1 percent.
Lopez-Obrador and his supporters have contended there was fraud, though the court's ruled to uphold the result.
Mr. ANDRES MANUEL LOPEZ-OBRADOR (Presidential Candidate, Mexico): (Spanish spoken)
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Dressed in a dark blue suit on a stage swathed in red velvet and Mexican flags, Lopez-Obrador was presented with a presidential sash and took an oath of office where he promised to act in the national best interest.
Mr. LOPEZ-OBRADOR: (Through translator) The main aim of this legitimate government will be to protect the rights of the people, to defend the patrimony of all Mexicans and the national sovereignty.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Helping Lopez-Obrador will be a Cabinet.
Mr. LOPEZ-OBRADOR: (Spanish Spoken)
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Most of the ministers will shadow real departments like foreign relations and health. Others, like the minister for honesty and austerity, have more amorphous portfolios. Lopez-Obrador also set out a 20-point plan that will include addressing immigration that will heighten conflict, price gouging for services like electricity and cell phone use, and media monopolies among other issues in the ambitious agenda.
To fund his so-called government he will not be collecting taxes because his movement will survive through donations. Retired teacher Juan Gomez(ph) says he believes Lopez-Obrador will call the conservative Calderon government to account.
Mr. JUAN GOMEZ (Lopez-Obrador Supporter): (Through translator) He will be a very close observer of the actions of Felipe Calderon. He will be a watchman, and we will be supporting him along with his Cabinet, and we will all be watching.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: The event had the pomp of a real inauguration, complete with seated guests and a fireworks display. But there were fewer people there than at the record-setting events over the summer. A recent poll in the conservative newspaper Reforma that had been opposed to Lopez-Obrador showed his supported waning, with only 19 percent backing his move to call himself president.
Yesterday he sought to reinvigorate his supporters.
Mr. LOPEZ-OBRADOR: (Through translator) Let's not give room to discouragement. Our hope is this collective action that will create what is needed, what is still pending. It is in our reach to make real and profound change.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: But even as his supporters were cheering in the square, one didn't have to go very far to find a different view. In a small alleyway off the Zocalo, stores selling seasonal decorations were closing down for the evening. Inside one of them was 38-year-old shop assistant Arturo Pacheco(ph).
Mr. ARTURO PACHECO: (Through translator) For me it's ridiculous, simply ridiculous, what this man has done today. The man is ill. We already have a designated president.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Lopez-Obrador has called for another protest to take place on December 1, the very day that Felipe Calderon will be official inaugurated. While some of Lopez-Obrador's party representatives in congress have tried to separate themselves from his combative tactics, others say they will try and block Calderon from taking office.
The even more radical elements of the party hope to make Mexico simply ungovernable until Calderon resigns. The big question of course is how much momentum Lopez-Obrador can maintain. He's a man that men have tried to write off before. One thing is certain though, before it even began, Calderon's honeymoon period is already over.
Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, NPR News, Mexico City.
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