Image: Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador
Eduardo Verdugo  /  AP
Leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador speaks during a meeting at the Zocalo plaza on Friday, where supporters ended their street protest that clogged the heart of the capital for two months.
updated 9/15/2006 11:11:28 PM ET 2006-09-16T03:11:28

Supporters of leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on Friday ended the street protest that clogged the heart of the capital for nearly seven weeks, but they vowed to find other ways to resist the incoming conservative president.

The announcement of the end of the protest camps came a day after President Vicente Fox decided to move Friday night’s annual independence celebration away from the main square to avoid the protesters. The president moved the ceremony to the city of Dolores Hidalgo, 170 miles away.

Mexican media quoted Interior Secretary Carlos Abascal as saying the feuding parties had struck a deal — Fox agreed to relocate the celebration in exchange for Lopez Obrador supporters dismantling their protest camp.

The former Mexico City mayor, who claims that his narrow loss in the July 2 presidential election was fraudulent, said he planned to travel across the country to meet with his supporters.

Spokesman Cesar Yanez told The Associated Press the protesters would not retake Mexico City’s Reforma Avenue and its main plaza, the Zocalo, after they hold a convention there Saturday.

“Everything will return to normal,” Yanez said.

Traffic already was flowing along Reforma, which had been blocked by tents, cars and buses since July 30 in an unsuccessful bid to force a full recount in the presidential vote.

‘Not giving up nor giving in’
Lopez Obrador and his supporters refuse to recognize the slim victory of Felipe Calderon, the candidate of Fox’s conservative National Action Party who is scheduled to take office Dec. 1.

Protesters started dismantling their tent city Thursday to allow the military to stage its Independence Day parade Saturday along its traditional route down Reforma.

Until now, protest leaders had suggested the future of the protest camps would be decided at the “National Democratic Convention” on Saturday, where supporters will be asked if they want to declare Lopez Obrador president of a “parallel government” to challenge Caldron’s administration.

“I am not giving up nor giving in, and I’m going to visit all the towns in the country,” Lopez Obrador said, speaking in the Zocalo on Friday.

The protests that snarled traffic in the already congested metropolis of 20 million people took a toll on Lopez Obrador’s popularity and exposed divisions within his Democratic Revolution Party. Recent opinion polls pointed to growing resentment against the protest.

Economic toll
Lorenzo Ysasi, head of the National Business Chamber, said the demonstration cost the city more than 3,000 jobs and about 67 small business were forced to close.

In a letter published in local media Friday, the leftist party’s founder, Cuauhtemoc Cardenas, said the decision to seize Reforma was “causing losses and wearing out the democratic movement in general.” The letter was sent to writer Eliana Poniatowska, a Lopez Obrador supporter.

Hundreds of his supporters began trickling into the Zocalo Friday afternoon where they planned to throw their own Independence Day party. Live bands played traditional Mexican music, while revelers blew plastic horns, donned large sombreros, and threw balloons up in the air.

But there were signs many were staying away.

“It’s significant that Fox has stepped aside,” said Yazmin Quiroz, 40, who was enjoying a beer with friends on an outside hotel terrace overlooking the Zocalo, and planned to go down to the square later to cheer for Lopez Obrador.

“If it’s not an act of cowardice, it is a recognition of the social power” that Lopez Obrador has, she said, adding that if Fox had come, he would have been greeted with a shower of tomatoes and eggs.

Symbolic gestures
Lopez Obrador had called on his supporters to turn their backs when Fox made the traditional independence night cry of “Viva Mexico!”

Fox’s decision to move the celebrations prompted Lopez Obrador to declare victory.

But Fox’s spokesman Ruben Aguilar said Friday the president moved the ceremony to Dolores Hidalgo, 170 miles away, because the government had “solid information” radical groups planned violence that could have caused deaths. He refused to give specifics.

Democratic Revolution President Leonel Cota said Aguilar was inventing the threat to discredit the protest movement and challenged him to name the radical groups.

Interior Secretary Abascal was later quoted by the Web site of newspaper La Reforma as saying that Fox agreed to go to Dolores Hidalgo in exchange for a promise that Mexico City Mayor Alejandro Encinas, of Lopez Obrador’s Democratic Revolution Party, would lead the Zocalo celebration and that the protesters would permanently remove their camps. Abascal’s office could not be reached for comment late Friday.

Earlier Mexican presidents have sometimes celebrated the final Independence Day of their six-year terms in Dolores Hidalgo, a city of 130,000 people where Roman Catholic priest Miguel Hidalgo made the first cry for independence from Spain in 1810.

The city is also in Fox’s home state of Guanajuato, a bastion of support for the National Action Party.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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