Washington traffic moving normally
By Winter Patriot on 8/1/2006, 5:00am PT  

Guest blogged by Winter Patriot

In my frozen heart of hearts I have been wanting to blog about Mexico for a long time now; at this point it's getting ridiculous that I haven't done so already. I don't have a lot of time but I can give you some links and some quotes and some photos. Special thanks to the San Jose Mercury News and Kevin Diaz of McClatchy Newspapers. (The Mercury News asks you to register before you can read news on their website; it's free! and well worth it, IMO.)

July 31: Protesters set up camp, show support for López Obrador

Thousands of protesters set up barricades along Mexico City's central thoroughfare Sunday night hours after the largest demonstration in Mexico's history filled the main square in support of leftist Andrés Manuel López Obrador's election challenge.

Police made no effort to intervene as the protesters set up tents and blocked traffic, apparently in response to López Obrador's call for the establishment of 47 "permanent assemblies"' to press his claims of fraud in the July 2 elections. López Obrador lost the vote to conservative Felipe Calderón by less than 1 percent of 41 million ballots cast.

Protesters at one of the barricades on the Paseo de la Reforma said they would remain there until a federal tribunal hearing López Obrador's challenge orders a recount of every ballot.

The street action comes amid mounting tensions in the post-election dispute and was the first sign that López Obrador's supporters intended to take their protests beyond organized mass rallies.

July 31: Massive protests snarl Mexico City

Supporters of leftist presidential runner-up Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador blocked traffic and ground much of downtown Mexico City to a halt Monday as they set up a tent city along a two-mile stretch of a major commercial thoroughfare.

The camps stretched the length of the Paseo de la Reforma, from famed Chapultepec Park to the Zocalo, in the heart of the city's historic center. The six-lane boulevard became a pedestrian mall dotted with tents.

City police made no attempt to interfere with the largely peaceful "permanent assembly," which Lopez Obrador organized to press his demand for a recount in his narrow loss to conservative Felipe Calderon in the July 2 presidential election.

Calderon's camp accused Mexico City Mayor Alejandro Encinas of cooperating with the demonstrators and called for police to clear the demonstrators. But Encinas, a member of Lopez Obrador's Party of the Democratic Revolution, or PRD, called for calm as he sought negotiations with the protest organizers.

"We're going to act with moderation and intelligence in confronting difficult times on the national political scene, with the understanding that this is a national problem, not just a problem for Mexico City," he said.
At a raucous news conference in the Zocalo on Monday afternoon, Lopez Obrador's top aides stressed patience for aggravated commuters.

"Please excuse us," said campaign coordinator Jesus Ortega. "But the struggle for democracy takes priority."

Here's some background on the protest:

July 31: López Obrador urges protesters to set up camp

Leftist candidate Andrés Manuel López 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 500,000 marchers filling the city's historic central plaza and spilling down fashionable Reforma boulevard, López Obrador said, "I propose we stay here permanently until the court resolves this ... that we stay here day and night."

If López 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 would not block streets, but López 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 carriage.

Want some more background? There's a lot more from the San Jose Mercury News:

July 27: Absentee ballots a flop in Mexico

July 26: Lopez Obrador pronounces himself `the president of Mexico'

July 25: All of Mexico waiting to see if tribunal will order recount

July 24: Mexico's contested election will be decided by a court unlike any in the U.S.