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Tensions escalate in Mexico protests

Marketplace Staff Aug 15, 2006

KAI RYSSDAL: There’s still no official winner in the Mexican presidential election. There have been several partial recounts, though. All of which have come down in favor of Felipe Calderon. Supporters of leftist candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador have blockaded the Congress building in Mexico City. Today police with tear gas broke up those protests. But Franc Contreras reports that’s not all they’re driving away.

FRANC CONTRERAS: Today supporters of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador called the police action repressive, and said the violence forces them to step up their street demonstrations.

For more than two weeks they’ve paralyzed the capitol’s financial district. That’s cost luxury hotels and restaurants more than $20 million a day. The protestors also took control of toll stations on highways leading into Mexico’s three biggest cities. They let motorists enter the cities for free. The move cost the government not much money. But it was a sign that the protestors are able to control key transportation routes, if they decide to.

The conservative candidate, Felipe Calderon, today tried to discredit the protests, saying they’re harming Mexico’s economy.

[Audio of Calderon.]

Calderon says the tourism industry is most affected. He blamed city government officials for not taking action. And he applauded the federal riot police for ousting the protestors from the Congress.

The street blockades are also affecting foreign corporations and banks. But they’re keeping quiet about the economic hit they’re taking.

As the crisis continues, the federal government has released its plans for early repayment of foreign loans. That’s helped calm investors’ fears for now.

Still, the sit-ins are expected to drag on at least through September, when the electoral judges decide what to do.

In Mexico City, I’m Franc Contreras for Marketplace.

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