- The Washington Times - Monday, July 2, 2007

MEXICO CITY — The leftist who barely lost Mexico’s presidential election criticized President Felipe Calderon’s oil policies, promising unspecified consequences during a mass rally yesterday aimed at reigniting his government in resistance.

Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador threatened to rouse the masses if Mr. Calderon tries to privatize the state-owned oil industry or open it to foreign investment.

“Zero negotiation. I repeat, zero negotiation with those who carry out policies against the people, and hand over the nation’s sovereignty to foreigners,” he told the rally, which drew hundreds of thousands of people.

Mr. Lopez Obrador has blamed his defeat on fraud and refused to recognize Mr. Calderon — who won the five-way election by a margin of about 230,000 votes — and has mounted his own parallel government with himself as “legitimate president.”

Mr. Lopez Obrador warned of unspecified consequences if Mr. Calderon tries to open the oil industry, which suffers from falling production and a lack of investment.

He also blamed the current government for the flood of Mexican migrants heading to the United States, saying it was a result of policies that impoverished farm families.

His movement, which draws support from about one-quarter of the population, is keeping alive an undercurrent of skepticism and discontent, though it rarely makes headlines anymore.

“The movement is not dead. What’s happening is that the media want to kill it,” said Jaime Taylor, 55, a small-business owner who attended the rally.

“We no longer have confidence in any of the country’s institutions: not the army, the courts, electoral or human rights authorities,” Mr. Taylor said. “We only trust the legitimate government … and that is Lopez Obrador.”

Mr. Lopez Obrador has tirelessly toured small towns across the country enrolling supporters as “representatives” of his “government,” a backwoods strategy not unlike that followed by many leaders of the 1910-17 Mexican Revolution, who would disappear into the mountains only to pop up again when least expected.

At stake is the leadership of Mexico’s left. Marcelo Ebrard, now mayor of Mexico City, is more centrist and considered by many to have a better chance at winning the 2012 presidential election than Mr. Lopez Obrador, who is saddled with an image as a sore loser.

Mr. Ebrard attended the rally yesterday and hugged Mr. Lopez Obrador, but did not speak.

Mr. Lopez Obrador shows no sign of giving up his one-man campaign. He has a pre-dawn weekly TV program paid for by supporters — the unattractive time slot is the only one he can afford — and released a book timed to coincide with the rally, titled “The Mafia Robbed Us of the Presidency.”