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Political Tension Mounts in Mexico Ahead of Inauguration


Tension is mounting in Mexico two days before the scheduled inauguration of President-elect Felipe Calderon, who won that nation's presidential election by a narrow margin in July amid charges of fraud by his main opponent. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Mexico City, losing candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is calling on his supporters to prevent the inauguration from taking place.

Final preparations are under way for Friday's inauguration, which will be attended by a number of international dignitaries, including former U.S. President George Bush, Spain's Prince Felipe and leaders of a number of Latin American nations. What those guests are likely to observe, however, has become a great source of chagrin for many Mexicans.

On Tuesday, there were fist fights and shoving between rival deputies in the Mexican Congress where the inauguration is to take place. Members of the ruling National Action Party, or PAN, fearing a move by leftist parties to seize control of the podium in advance of Friday's ceremony, took control of the area themselves. Members of the Party of the Democratic Revolution, or PRD, joined by other leftist party members, repeatedly tried to break through the lines.

Hours before the inauguration is to occur on Friday, Lopez Obrador plans to rally supporters in Mexico City's main plaza, the Zocalo, and instruct them on tactics to use in their attempt to block the inauguration. While police can block demonstrators from the Congress, they cannot prevent acts of physical violence carried out by duly-elected members of the Congress itself. Under the Mexican constitution, the president-elect must swear the oath of office before the Congress, which must have established a quorum. If this does not happen, then the constitution calls for the Congress to designate an interim president.

Felipe Calderon has ignored the scuffles and threats for the most part, naming cabinet members and continuing to plan for what he will do after assuming the presidential sash from outgoing President Vicente Fox. He has also pledged dialogue with the opposition.

He says the government he will initiate on December 1 will engage in dialogue with all political forces and all sectors of society to advance the nation of Mexico.

But critics note that, so far, all of his cabinet appointments have come from his own party. His appointment of a former governor of Jalisco known for taking a firm stand against protesters has also been seen as a sign the new president will be less tolerant of dissidents who break the law.

Human rights organizations have expressed concern over the appointment, but Calderon supporters say they hope he will take swift action to end the tumult in the state of Oaxaca that President Fox has allowed to fester for months. What began there as a teachers' strike has now deteriorated into street fighting and the burning of buildings and vehicles. President Fox recently sent in federal police units to establish control, but the situation remains volatile.