OLGA R. RODRIGUEZ
July 12, 2006
MONTERREY, Mexico - Supporters of leftist presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador headed to Mexico City on Wednesday, leaving mountain towns and sprawling industrial cities to demand a ballot-by-ballot recount.
Protesters gathered outside the country's 300 electoral districts before heading to the capital, where a mass rally is planned for Sunday to denounce official results showing conservative Felipe Calderon as the apparent winner of the July 2 election.
Carrying signs that read "Vote by vote! No to electoral fraud!" and wearing yellow, the color of Lopez Obrador's Democratic Revolution Party, dozens of the candidate's most fervent supporters began a 60-mile walk from his home state of Tabasco.
The protesters, many of whom joined Lopez Obrador in 1995 during months of protests over his loss of the governor's race in Tabasco state, will travel the last 370 miles of their journey to Mexico City by bus, organizers said.
Lopez Obrador has filed legal appeals challenging the nearly 244,000-vote advantage Calderon had after an official tally of the more than 41 million votes cast. His party has submitted dozens of boxes stuffed with videos, campaign propaganda and other alleged proof of election misconduct.
Throughout his political career, Lopez Obrador has used street protests to pressure the government and the courts.
Last year, as Mexico City mayor, he led huge street protests that eventually forced President Vicente Fox's administration to drop a legal case that would have kept Lopez Obrador out of the presidential race. Fox and Calderon are from the same party, the National Action Party.
On Saturday, more than 100,000 of his supporters gathered in Mexico City's central plaza to hear his allegations of fraud.
Lopez Obrador has asked his supporters to be peaceful and not block roads, and they have heeded his request.
In northern Nuevo Leon, a state Lopez Obrador lost to Calderon, about 500 protesters were to gather Wednesday in Monterrey, the state's capital. They will leave by buses and cars, picking up supporters along the trip, said Alejandro Silva, a Democratic Revolution spokesman.
"We can't ask people to walk because it would take forever, but we are going to make stops and hold demonstrations in several cities," Silva said.
Lopez Obrador promised to govern for the poor and forgotten, with plans for government handout programs and public works projects. Many supporters were devastated by his apparent loss, and have said they won't accept it.
The law allows a recount only for specific polling places where credible evidence of irregularities exist. The leftist's supporters say that applies to at least 50,000 of the approximately 130,000 polling places.
Lopez Obrador has also argued that there were campaign violations even before the vote, including overspending by Calderon's National Action Party, government support for Calderon and unfair intervention on his rival's behalf by business and church groups.
Fox has denied interfering in the elections, and election monitors from the European Union said they found no irregularities in the vote count.
Under Mexican law, no president-elect will be declared until the appeals process is completed. The widely respected tribunal has overturned two gubernatorial races in recent years, both for meddling by the ruling party.
A winner must be declared before Sept. 6.