- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 17, 2006

MEXICO CITY — Supporters of defeated presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador named him leader of a “parallel government” yesterday during a mass meeting in the same square where President Vicente Fox celebrated Independence Day hours earlier with a giant military parade.

Mr. Lopez Obrador’s supporters, who insist fraud denied the leftist the July 2 election, derided Mr. Fox as a “crook” during the parade. Mr. Fox and President-elect Felipe Calderon are both from the conservative National Action Party.

After the parade passed, Lopez Obrador supporters moved back into the capital’s enormous main square, Zocalo. They set up temporary meeting places for the hundreds of thousands of delegates they expected to attend what they were calling a “National Democratic Convention.” Lopez Obrador supporters had camped out for nearly seven weeks in the Zocalo, clogging the heart of the capital until Friday, when they agreed to end their protest.

On Friday night, as holiday celebrations began, Mr. Fox stayed away from the square and went to another city to avoid confrontation with Lopez Obrador loyalists holding their own party there.

Mr. Lopez Obrador, who refuses to recognize Mr. Calderon’s election, arrived in the late afternoon yesterday, greeting supporters from a large stage in front of the National Palace.

Convention members, voting with a show of hands, elected Mr. Lopez Obrador as Mexico’s “legitimate” president and formally refused to accept Mr. Calderon’s administration. Mr. Calderon is scheduled to take office on Dec. 1.

“There has been a big fraud and we are no longer able to accept that the federal electoral institute spent 28 billion pesos to commit fraud,” said Antonio Romano Hernandez, 56, a baker from Mexico City. “This convention is the most palpable proof of how the people of Mexico feel.” Shouts of “Obrador, Obrador,” were interspersed with organ-grinder music and the loud squawk of plastic horns blown to celebrate Independence Day.

Mr. Lopez Obrador said he hoped to mass as many as 1 million people for the event. However, the Zocalo accommodates fewer than 200,000 people, according to local news media and an architects association.

Lilia Hernandez, 40, an accountant from Mexico City, said she supported the convention.

“I think Lopez Obrador has some real proposals aimed at helping the poor,” who make up nearly half of Mexico’s population of 107 million.

Mr. Lopez Obrador told followers in the Zocalo on Friday that he was “not giving up or giving in,” and he vowed to follow the convention with a nationwide tour.

During the military celebration yesterday, small groups of his supporters pushed up against metal barricades separating the crowds from the parade holding signs reading “Fox, crook” and calling for a full recount of the election that Mr. Lopez Obrador lost by a margin of less than 0.6 percent.

Mexico’s top electoral court on Sept. 5 declared Mr. Calderon the winner of the election by less than 234,000 votes out of 42 million cast. The ruling, which cannot be appealed, rejected claims by Mr. Lopez Obrador that the vote was skewed by systematic fraud and improper spending by the Fox administration.

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