headlines | about |

Over A Million Demand Recount - Plus Florida Con Salsa


Hola all,

While the NYTimes gives a count of 200,000 plus. La Jornada in
Mexico says the numbers were 1.1 million to 1.5 million. That the
march went from the Zocalo to the edge of Mexico City. D.F.

July 17, 2006
Crowds Rally Again to Demand Recount in Mexico

MEXICO CITY, July 16 . For the second time in eight days, thousands of
supporters of the leftist presidential candidate, Andre's Manuel Lo'pez
Obrador, filled this city.s historic central plaza to demonstrate their
support for his demand for a vote-by-vote recount of Mexico.s disputed
July 2 election.

The crowds at this rally . several hundred thousand . were considerably
larger than the last and seemed to indicate that the movement started by
the embattled former mayor of Mexico City remained strong.

Mr. Lo'pez Obrador told the throngs of people roaring his name that a
recount was not too much to ask to resolve the political crisis that has
gripped the nation since election officials declared his conservative
opponent, Felipe Caldero'n, who appeared to be the winner by less than 1
percent of 41 million ballots cast.

That victory has yet to be certified by the Federal Electoral Tribunal as
it weighs a legal challenge from Mr. Lo'pez Obrador. In the meantime, he
seems determined to keep up pressure on the tribunal to grant his demand
for a recount.

Mr. Lo'pez Obrador and supporters who helped organize the rally urged his
followers to conduct nonviolent acts of civil disobedience, including
boycotts of products made by Mexican companies that opposed his candidacy
as well as those of some American companies, without explaining why.

He also asked them to stage sit-ins starting Sunday at the 300 district
election offices across the country. The purpose, he said, was to prevent
any tampering with ballot boxes.

At one point during his speech, Mr. Lo'pez Obrador smiled as the crowd
chanted, .You are not alone.. He told them that the movement he was
leading was about more than one man or one political party. He said it was
about the future of this country.s fragile democracy.

I have the deep conviction that despite all the machinery of the state,
and all the money of a privileged group, they will not be able to stop the
free will of millions of Mexicans,. he said. .That is the greatest force
of a democracy..

Mr. Caldero'n and his supporters say that their victory is legitimate and
that a recount will do more harm than good to an electoral system that was
meticulously engineered to move Mexico toward democracy after decades of
autocratic, one-party rule.

They have described Mr. Lo'pez Obrador as so obsessed with power that he
will stop at nothing to win, even using mass marches to try to bully his
way to power over the decisions of the democratic institutions it has
taken Mexico more than a decade to build.

Arturo Sarukhan, a leading adviser to Mr. Caldero'n, said his candidate
would accept a recount if one was ordered by the electoral tribunal. But
he said his candidate did not believe a recount was legally necessary,
since the votes were counted on election night by citizens recruited at
random to be poll workers.

They are seeking to pressure the tribunal to say this is too complicated,
let.s annul the whole thing,. Mr. Sarukhan said. .We are convinced this is
not about a recount. This is about annulment..

In a voluminous complaint before the electoral tribunal, Mr. Lo'pez Obrador
charged that the voting was riddled with mistakes and rigged against him
by President Vicente Fox, who openly supported Mr. Caldero'n, who is from
the same party.

He also accused business leaders of meddling in the election by conducting
a campaign that depicted Mr. Lo'pez Obrador as a danger to the political
and economic stability Mexico has enjoyed over the last six years.

At 1:30 p.m. Sunday, Mr. Lo'pez Obrador led about 200,000 supporters down
one of the city.s main thoroughfares and into the Zo'calo, as the city.s
main plaza is known. About 200,000 more were already waiting there.

Rossana Fuentes Berain, a political analyst at the Autonomous
Technological Institute of Mexico, looked out on the crowd from the
terrace of a hotel adjacent to the plaza and wondered whether Mr. Lo'pez
Obrador could keep a rein on the outrage he had unleashed.

I am very worried,. she said. .If he can convince so many people that the
democratic system isn.t working, then we are going to throw away 20 years
of building trust and confidence..

People interviewed at the rally said their distrust of the system had
compelled them to come from as far north as Mexico.s border with the
United States and as far south as the state of Chiapas.

Like the crowd of people who came out last week to support Mr. Lo'pez
Obrador, this gathering also seemed to be a broad cross section of people
with different levels of education and incomes.

Many of those interviewed brought up the 1988 election, considered a
pivotal moment in this country.s long history of electoral fraud. Some
said that although there had been progress since then, it had not been
enough to stop the entrenched oligarchies from using their powers to stand
in the way of the will of the people.

Others said that although they supported Mr. Lo'pez Obrador, they worried
that his language had become increasingly volatile and could push the
country into violence.

People are tired of so much injustice,. said Pablo Huitro'n Neguis, 44, an
elementary school teacher. .We have fought years to have our votes
respected, and now they are using the same old strategies to rob us again.
Lo'pez Obrador knows that if the people unite, there is no one who can stop

There were lots of angry expressions from unlikely places.

If blood must be spilled, then so be it,. said a housewife, Graciela
Saavedra, 44. .We don.t want it, but we are tired of accepting fraud with
our arms crossed..

There seemed to be just as many calls for calm. .We know there was fraud,.
said Pablo Serna, 27, a dentist from the north central state of Zacatecas.
But there is no reason to generate so much resentment. There is also no
reason to discredit everything because the movement could turn against

Although it was clear Mr. Lo'pez Obrador would not back down from his
fight, his appeals Sunday seemed toned down from earlier this week, when
election officials challenged the credibility of several videos he
presented as proof of fraud.

He who owes nothing, fears nothing,. Mr. Lo'pez Obrador said, explaining
why in his view Mr. Calderon should not object to a recount. Later, he
added, .The stain of an illegitimate election cannot be cleaned with all
the water in all the oceans..

Antonio Betancourt and James C. McKinley Jr. contributed reporting for
this article.

Plus Florida Con Salsa - Video Report by Greag Palast

or Read the Transcript: