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Mexican protesters take to streets to demand full recount

As the partial recount is about to start, Lopez Obrador's supporters prepare for a long fight.

Published August 9, 2006

MEXICO CITY - Supporters of leftist candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador briefly took over highway toll booths Tuesday, giving thousands of motorists free passage to the capital as they escalated their demands for a full recount in July's close election.

A day before electoral officials were to begin a partial recount, Lopez Obrador's die-hard backers were becoming more radicalized and said they were ready for a protracted fight.

But the fiery former Mexico City mayor who ran his campaign on improving the lot of millions of poor has lost supporters who were turned off by his blockade of the city center.

Some fear that while Lopez Obrador has urged his followers to remain peaceful, he may not be able to prevent demonstrations from erupting in violence.

The seizure of the toll booths prompted President Vicente Fox's spokesman, Ruben Aguilar, to threaten for the first time the use of force. But demonstrators backed off before that could happen, abandoning the booths shortly after the end of morning rush hour.

An official in Lopez Obrador's party said the seizure of toll booths was the start of a week of new protests across the nation.

Lopez Obrador activists who gathered in front of the nation's top electoral court on Monday night raised their fists in defiance and chanted "revolution."

They are likely to become even more angry after a partial recount, which is expected to confirm ruling-party candidate Felipe Calderon's slight lead.

The recount starts today and will wrap up by Sunday. It will review the ballots at 9 percent of the country's 130,000 polling places. The court has denied demonstrators' demands for a full recount, saying it would go against Mexican law.

The protesters say they will not give up until they get a ballot-by-ballot review, setting the stage for a battle that could last weeks or even months.

"We are here for democracy and we are not leaving," said Armando Bolanos, 49, of a group representing migrants, farmers, small labor unions, academics and business owners. "If they kick us out, we'll come back."

The Federal Electoral Tribunal has until Sept. 6 to declare a president-elect or annul the election. Fox is scheduled to leave office on Dec. 1 after serving his one, six-year term.

[Last modified August 9, 2006, 01:07:02]

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