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US Expert Concerned About Turmoil in Mexico

In Mexico, President-elect Felipe Calderon has named the members of his economic cabinet, most of whom are well-known and respected figures both in Mexico and around the world. But before he can begin official work with his cabinet, Calderon will have to take the presidential oath in an inauguration ceremony that leftist opposition parties are planning to disrupt. VOA's Greg Flakus spoke with the top Mexico expert in the United States about what lies ahead for Calderon and filed this report from Houston.

Ever since he won the Mexican presidential election by the slimmest of margins in July, Felipe Calderon has been moving steadily forward with his plans, in spite of demonstrations and threats from political opponents. George Grayson, who keeps a close eye on Mexican politics from his academic position at the College of William and Mary, says Calderon's picks for his economic cabinet will meet with approval in Mexican business circles and in other parts of the world as well. "He has got a first-rate economic team. Agustin Carstens, who has been number two at the International Monetary Fund is well-respected internationally and his nomination is certainly being well-received by the financial analysts, not just in the United States, but around the world." he said.

Agustin Carstens will be Secretary of the Treasury in the Calderon administration. Others on the team are Georgina Kessel for Secretary of Energy, Eduardo Sojo, Economy, Luis Tellez, Communications and Transport, Javier Lozano Alarcon, Labor, and Rodolfo Elizondo, Tourism.

But before Calderon or his team can accomplish anything, he will have to go from being president-elect to president, something his closest rival in the election is trying to prevent. On Monday, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who led a leftist coalition in the July election, declared himself president in a ceremony attended by thousands of his supporters in Mexico City.

Professor Grayson, who earlier this year published a book about Lopez Obrador, says the losing candidate's strategy is clear. "First, he is going to urge his followers to try to block Felipe Calderon's inauguration on December 1. Assuming he is unsuccessful in that, he will criticize every appointment and every program that the new president proposes, and he will move continually around the country in, what for him, is a moral crusade," he said.

Although he came close to winning the presidency, his recent actions have cost Lopez Obrador public support. Polls show more than 60 percent of Mexicans believe he has hurt the country by declaring himself president. Many Mexicans also worry about how their country will be viewed when leftist supporters of Lopez Obrador try to disrupt the inauguration.

George Grayson says presidential guards and police can protect Calderon from demonstrators outside the inauguration site, at the national congress building, on December first, but not from people inside. "What they cannot do is protect him from senators and deputies from the various pro-Lopez Obrador parties who are rightfully in the chamber and who will do everything possible to disrupt the ceremony. But it is likely to turn into absolute mayhem and that is going to be seen all over the world, not just through the eyes of the distinguished guests, but also on television. So I think the left is really shooting itself in the foot with a machinegun," he said.

Grayson says he believes Felipe Calderon will move quickly as president to address many of the major concerns of the left, to alleviate poverty and blunt the impact of Lopez Obrador's protests.