- The Washington Times - Friday, April 8, 2005

MEXICO CITY [-] Mexico’s Congress voted last night to impeach the enormously popular mayor of Mexico City, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, a move that could disqualify him from running for president next year.

Mr. Lopez Obrador, leader of the leftist Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD), is accused of violating a judge’s order in 2001 forbidding him to widen a hospital access road on disputed land in a suburb of Mexico City.

The Mexican legislature voted 360-127 for impeachment.

Mexican law prohibits people under prosecution from running for office. The mayor also would be removed from his position.

Earlier yesterday, more than 100,000 protesters, with yellow balloons and homemade banners, clogged central Mexico City to express their anger at Mexico’s Congress for what they saw as a maneuver to bar the country’s popular politician from running for president.

Supporters of Mr. Lopez Obrador say the charge against the mayor is trivial, and that it is being pursued by his political adversaries with the intention of eliminating him from the presidential race.

Mr. Lopez Obrador said yesterday that the action “is not a legal matter but a political one” and constituted an “outrage” against Mexico’s fledgling democracy that “takes us back to our authoritarian days.”

He said he was being impeached because 80 percent of the inhabitants of Mexico City support him and that he leads public opinion polls for the 2006 presidential elections by 15 percentage points.

President Vicente Fox’s ruling National Action Party (PAN), which in 2000 put an end to the seven-decade-long reign of the Mexican Revolution of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), argues that the rule of law must be upheld, and that no one is above the law.

The PRD is the third major party in Mexican politics.

“It’s basically electoral politics,” said Leo Zuckerman, an analyst at Mexico City’s Center on Research and Teaching in Economics.

“Behind it all is the very clear idea of the PAN and the PRI trying to stop [Mr. Lopez Obrador] from participating in the election. My guess is they got scared when they saw him ahead in all the polls,” Mr. Zuckerman said.

Central Mexico City came to a standstill in the morning as the protesters gathered in the main square.

Mr. Lopez Obrador, criticized by his detractors as a demagogue populist and likened to Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez, yesterday reiterated his call for widespread demonstrations, although he urged his supporters not to resort to violence.

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