July 10, 2006

Mexico Leftist Says Videos Prove Election Fraud

By Greg Brosnan

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the former mayor of Mexico City, has asked an electoral court to reverse a narrow victory for conservative Felipe Calderon of the ruling National Action Party, or PAN.

Lopez Obrador, who lost by less than a percentage point, is also calling his supporters to take part in mass protests this week to call attention to his claims that the vote count was manipulated in favor of Calderon.

Using a large screen at his campaign headquarters, Lopez Obrador played two shaky amateur videos he said were among substantial footage supporters had sent him which proved he was cheated out of victory on July 2.

One video showed a purported PAN supporter in the central state of Guanajuato stuffing a ballot box for congressional elections held the same day as the presidential vote.

The other, taken in neighboring Queretaro state during the presidential vote recount, showed what appeared to be an electoral official refusing to recount a ballot box that later turned out to have discrepancies in favor of Calderon.

"This is old-style fraud," Lopez Obrador, upbeat and smiling, told reporters, saying similar instances of fraud had taken place across the country

"I am certain the people are not going to permit this abuse," he said, repeating his demand for a nationwide, vote-by-vote recount.

Vote rigging was widespread in Mexico during the 71-year rule of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, which President Vicente Fox defeated at elections in 2000.


But a European Union team of observers said last week there was no major fraud in this election and foreign leaders including President Bush and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero have called conservative Calderon to congratulate him.

Lopez Obrador, a former Indian welfare officer who has a long history of organizing protests, rallied more than 100,000 people in the capital's Zocalo square on Saturday.

He has called supporters to converge on the capital from around the country this Wednesday and will stage another march in Mexico City next Sunday to protest the result.

Lopez Obrador, an anti-poverty crusader, filed a legal challenge to the result on Sunday.

Party aides have said Lopez Obrador will accept the ruling by the Federal Electoral Tribunal even if it confirms his loss, but on Monday the candidate was noncommittal.

"We'll wait to see," Lopez Obrador told a news conference when asked if he would accept the court's decision. "We'll wait for the result," he said when asked the question again.

Investors in the country's stock, bond and currency markets fear disruptive mass protests by the leftist's supporters.

A spokesman for Fox played down the threat of turmoil.

"We don't foresee any outbreak of violence," said Ruben Aguilar. "The organizers have said these demonstrations will stay within the law and be peaceful."