April 15, 2002

Mexico's top woman politician becomes party chief

MEXICO CITY, Mexico (AP) --Promising to win over even her harshest critics, the
highest-ranking female politician in Mexican history was sworn in as head of this country's
largest leftist party Sunday.

During a raucous ceremony at the Mexican capital's Revolution Monument, Rosario
Robles promised to reunite the Democratic Revolution Party. Her comments came a
little less than a month after a chaotic internal election to chose the party's president
was marred by low turnout and widespread allegations of fraud.

"We can do what no other political party can," Robles told thousands of cheering
supporters. "We will continue to raise our voice and speak out against others,
particularly those legislators who have been incapable of addressing national

Robles made history when she became acting Mexico City mayor in 1999 and 2000
after former Mayor Cuauhtemoc Cardenas resigned to run for president. That
remains the most prominent post ever held by a female politician in Mexico.

During internal voting in all 30 states and Mexico City on March 17, Robles easily
defeated the other major candidate to head the party, outspoken Sen. Jesus Ortega.

But voting was canceled in two states after ballot boxes were stolen, misplaced,
burned or delivered late. Elsewhere, people allegedly supporting Ortega hijacked a
collection of ballot boxes and refused to release them.

When Robles publicly accused Ortega and his supporters of trying to sabotage
voting, Ortega asked that the entire election be nullified because of voting
irregularities. A week of political infighting and squabbling followed, delaying the
official election results for several days.

Robles said Sunday that she would help Democratic Revolution supporters put the
embarrassing election behind them.

"Our first obligation is to revise the nature of all of our elections in order to
guarantee that the rules of the game are transparent and trustworthy for all who
participate," she said.

With 4.3 million registered voters, Democratic Revolution is Mexico's third largest
party after the ruling National Action Party and the Institutional Revolutionary Party.
It was founded in 1989 by a coalition including disillusioned Institutional
Revolutionary members and communists.

Robles' party is trying to regroup after finishing a distant third in the 2000
presidential election and losing about half of its congressional seats. It has gained
some political ground recently, holding onto Mexico City's mayorship and winning
several state governorships.

Copyright 2002 The Associated Press.