Mexican riot police seal Congress


Richard Moore

Original source URL:

Mexican riot police seal Congress

Aug 16, 2006

Hundreds of riot police in black body armour sealed Congress with roadblocks and
a metal wall on Tuesday to keep leftist protesters away after a violent clash 
over Mexico's disputed presidential election.

Federal police took control of all the streets around Congress in a show of 
force to prevent protesters from blockading the building ahead of President 
Vicente Fox's state of the nation speech there in two weeks time.

About 15 legislators from the left-wing party whose presidential candidate, 
Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, narrowly lost the July 2 election were among those 
hurt on Monday when police tore down tents in their partially built camp, tear 
gassed protesters and drove them back with clubs.

Protesters responded by tossing rocks and bottles at the police. It was the 
first violence since the election protests began weeks ago.

The leftists stayed away on Tuesday but warned their legislators would disrupt 
Fox's state of the nation speech.

"They are going to play a strong role on September 1, and it's not going to be 
any kind of walk in the park for the president," said Gerardo Fernandez, 
spokesman for Lopez Obrador's Party of the Democratic Revolution, or PRD.

The leftist was narrowly beaten by Felipe Calderon of Fox's conservative 
National Action Party, or PAN, but claims he was the victim of massive fraud and
is challenging the results on the streets and before Mexico's top electoral 

The crisis has divided Mexico largely along class lines, and raised fears of 

A partial recount of votes last week is unlikely to change the election result. 
Lopez Obrador wants all 41 million votes counted again and has vowed to prevent 
Calderon from taking power.


After Monday's clash, he accused Fox's government of repression. "They are 
revealing their authoritarianism, as in the worst moments of the country's 
history," he told cheering supporters in Mexico City's vast Zocalo square on 
Monday night.

Eduardo Medina Mora, Mexico's public security minister, defended the use of 
force on Tuesday. "We regret the friction, but when it is inevitable, what can 
we do?" he said. "I do not see repression, I see an application of procedures."

PAN spokesman Carlos Nava also justified the police action, describing the 
Congress protest as a "violent assault".

The next flashpoint could be Fox's speech to Congress.

In 1988, Fox himself interrupted a state of the nation speech, considered one of
the most solemn events in the Mexican political calendar, by wearing a large 
pair of ears made from ballot papers to poke fun at then-President Carlos 

Salinas is widely accused of stealing the 1988 election from PRD founder 
Cuauhtemoc Cardenas.

Other opposition politicians joined the PRD on Tuesday in criticizing the police
violence against lawmakers in a full-page newspaper ad.

Lopez Obrador's protests continued with a short blockade at the Spanish Embassy 
in Mexico City. Spain's left-leaning government was one of the first to 
congratulate Calderon on his disputed election victory.

Lopez Obrador says hundreds of thousands of ballots were miscounted or lost and 
his supporters have turned central Mexico City into a sea of tents, causing 
traffic chaos.

They have also blocked access to the stock exchange and foreign-owned banks.

Mexico's electoral court must name a new president by September 6. Despite weeks
of demonstrations and legal battles, most observers expect magistrates to rule 
in favour of Calderon.

Escaping the Matrix website
cyberjournal website  
subscribe cyberjournal list     mailto:•••@••.•••
Posting archives      
  cyberjournal forum  
  Achieving real democracy
  for readers of ETM  
  Community Empowerment
  Blogger made easy