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Brawl sets up tense standoff in Mexican Congress 2 days before president's inauguration

Brawl sets up tense standoff in Mexican Congress 2 days before president's inauguration

Mexico's ruling party pledged Wednesday to not let leftist lawmakers derail the swearing-in of President-elect Felipe Calderon at Congress despite a standoff between legislators who spent the night brawling in the chambers and tossing one another off the speaker's platform.
The president of the lower house, Jorge Zermeno of Calderon's National Action Party, told the national TV Azteca network that he still hoped the legislature could pull off Friday's inauguration, which is supposed to be attended by foreign dignitaries, including former U.S. President George H.W. Bush.
"I think we can mend this despite these very embarrassing acts," a bleary-eyed Zermeno said after spending the night in the chambers.
But Democratic Revolution lawmakers weren't budging
"We aren't going to let him govern," said Congressman Raymundo Cardenas. "We are going to have a permanent position of resistence and obstruction."
The constitution states the new president must be sworn in before Congress, but officials vary about whether that requires a full majority of congressmen or whether Zermeno, the Congressional leader, could perform the ceremony himself.
Most Mexican presidents of the 20th century were sworn in at large theaters or stadiums away from the actual Congress building.
President Vicente Fox has argued that Calderon would be president on Friday with or without an inaugural ceremony.
The battle was a continuation of the monthslong fight over the disputed presidential race. Lopez Obrador and his supporters seized Mexico City's center for months and have refused to recognize Calderon's victory by less than a percentage point.
Lopez Obrador has declared himself the country's "legitimate" president and has set up a parallel government designed to undermine Calderon's administration.
The congressional chaos began Tuesday afternoon after conservative legislators of Calderon's National Action Party, or PAN, took over the speaker's podium early in the day amid rumors that leftist lawmakers planned to seize the podium, as they did before President Vicente Fox's Sept. 1 state-of-the-nation speech. Fox handed in a written report and was forced to give a televised speech.
Leftists from Lopez Obrador's Democratic Revolution Party, or PRD, quickly followed the conservative lawmakers to the platform, and scuffles broke out.
Tired and bedraggled, the lawmakers occasionally shoved and shouted for nearly 17 hours.
"I'm sorry this had to happen, but we were forced to do it," said ruling party Rep. Juan Jose Rodriguez Pratts, whose colleagues occupied the upper steps of the broad, raised speaker's podium, while opposition legislators formed an angry knot on the bottom steps.
"There were clear indications, latent threats to do that, and so what we did was head that off to guarantee Friday's ceremony," he added.
Fox's spokesman, Ruben Aguilar, said Wednesday the presidency laments the violence.
"This is not what the citizenry wants," he said, adding that Fox still plans to hand over the presidential sash to Calderon in Congress.
Despite Calderon's determination to have the ceremony in the congressional chambers, some lawmakers speculated that it could be moved to another venue.
A leader of the former ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party, Sen. Manlio Fabio Beltrones, said it would be "natural and logical" to hold the ceremony elsewhere.
The congressional standoff was proof that disputes over the July 2 elections are unlikely to go away.
Tuesday's brawl came as Mexico faces central questions on the effectiveness of its government, with escalating turf wars between drug gangs and bloody street battles in the southern city of Oaxaca, which was seized for five months by leftist protesters.
Calderon has pledged to reach out to the millions of people who didn't vote for him by building a coalition government that will include several of his rival's proposals to help the poor. But so far, he has stacked his Cabinet with activists from his own party.
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Associated Press Writer Kathleen Miller contributed to this report.
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On the Net:
President-elect Felipe Calderon's English-language Web site:
http://www.felipe-calderon.org/fc/html/eng/index.htm


Updated : 2021-10-25 00:40 GMT+08:00