Leftist candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador called Sunday for hundreds of thousands of his supporters to erect permanent protest camps to cripple Mexico’s capital until a disputed presidential election is decided.
Addressing about a half-million marchers filling the city’s historic central plaza and spilling down fashionable Reforma boulevard, Lopez Obrador said, “I propose we stay here permanently until the court resolves this ... That we stay here day and night.”
If Lopez Obrador supporters heed his call, blockades could have a catastrophic effect on already chaotic city traffic, hurting downtown commerce.
The leftist asked his followers not to “invade public spaces” and demonstrators said they wouldn’t block streets, but Lopez Obrador also apologized in advance for “any inconvenience our movement might cause.”
“We will take drastic measures. We will blockade airports, we will take over embassies,” marcher Sara Zepeda, 32, said as she pushed her 2-month-old son in a baby carriage.
The former Mexico City mayor finished slightly behind his conservative opponent, ex-Energy Secretary Felipe Calderon, in the July 2 election, and says a vote-by-vote recount will expose fraud that titled the election.
An official count gave Calderon less than 0.6 percent over Lopez Obrador, about 240,000 votes out of some 41 million cast. The Federal Electoral Tribunal has until Sept. 6 to either declare a winner or annul the election.
Calderon remains confident he was the election’s rightful winner and said he won’t be intimidated by street protests.
‘At the end of the day, we won’
The conservative candidate and his party’s legal team on Sunday presented their arguments to the seven-judge electoral tribunal, saying he had won the vote cleanly. They also argued in favor of annulling votes in districts that went heavily for Lopez Obrador.
“At the end of the day, we won the presidential election. Period,” Calderon said.
Backers of Lopez Obrador had said they hoped the rally would draw more than a million people and on Sunday gave a crowd estimate of 2 million. But the crowd appeared to number far less than that.
It was the third and biggest rally convened by Lopez Obrador since the vote.
Bearing banners that read “No to Fraud” and carrying dolls, placards and T-shirts emblazoned with the image of their candidate, protesters ranging from students to grandmothers marched to the sound of drums and chants.
“We’ll march again and again and again, as many times as it takes, until Lopez Obrador sits in the president’s seat,” said Maria Dolores Honorato, 74, who traveled from her home town of Maravatio, Michoacan.
On Saturday, three of Lopez Obrador’s lawyers asked the electoral court to declare their candidate president-elect, arguing that there were mathematical errors, falsifications or other problems at 72,000 of the country’s 130,000 polling places. The closed-door session was the court’s first hearing since the disputed vote.
President Vicente Fox of Calderon’s National Action Party leaves office Dec. 1. Mexico’s constitution limits presidents to a single six-year term.