sábado, abril 02, 2005

Panel Recommends Mexico City Mayor Face Criminal Charges

April 1, 2005 6:16 p.m.
MEXICO CITY (AP)--A congressional panel recommended Friday that Mexico City's mayor face criminal charges for allegedly disobeying a court order, a decision that could keep him out of next year's presidential election.
By a 3-1 vote, the committee ruled that the 500-member House should decide whether to strip Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of the immunity from criminal prosecution he enjoys as an elected official.
At stake is the political future of a man who has built a huge following thanks to heavy spending on social programs and construction projects.
Although he has not formally declared his candidacy, Lopez Obrador has consistently led all public-opinion polls as a potential presidential candidate in 2006.
Shortly before the announcement, hundreds of demonstrators loyal to the mayor and his left-leaning Democratic Revolutionary Party filled the narrow streets of the capital city's center and dozens more gathered outside the lower House of Congress. When heavily armed security guards barred them from entering the chamber, legislative staffers from Lopez Obrador's party took matters into their own hands.
Chants of "No to the Impeachment" echoed through the chamber.
"It's a blow to the republic, a blow to democracy. An attack on liberty," said Congressman Manuel Camacho, anticipating a decision that wasn't expected to come for several hours.
The federal attorney general's office has accused the mayor of ignoring a court order to stop construction of a hospital access road on private land. Under most interpretations of Mexican law, anyone facing criminal prosecution may not run for public office.
Pablo Gomez, head of Democratic Revolution's bloc in the House, said the case against the mayor will likely go forward and that it would spark several days of new demonstrations.
Protesters armed with photos of Lopez Obrador's face have flooded the city's center in recent days, and Gomez has hinted his party might stage a political revolt in defense of the mayor. The director of the Mexican stock market warned equities could free-fall as political tensions rise.
At his daily pre-dawn briefing with reporters Friday, Lopez Obrador said "we're prepared, ready and serene, waiting for the decision" of the advisory committee. He said he would not fight an arrest warrant if one is issued against him, and had given no thought to naming a successor to take his post as mayor.
Lopez Obrador, who has suggested he may seek the presidency from behind bars if necessary, insists the case is nothing more than a ploy, overseen by President Vicente Fox's administration, to prevent him from entering the presidential race.
Term limits bar Fox, of the conservative National Action Party, from running again, but he is widely seen as promoting the candidacy of his top Cabinet member, Interior Secretary Santiago Creel. Both Fox and Creel have denied the mayor's allegations.
The legislative committee can recommend that the case go forward or be thrown out. Either decision would have to be approved later by the 500-member lower House. If the committee deadlocks, however, the matter will likely not go any further.

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