Standoff between federal, state authorities in
Mexico turns violent
MEXICO CITY, Mexico (AP) -- Hundreds of hard-line supporters of Mexico's
former ruling party prevented federally-designated election supervisors from
replacing a stacked local election board, during a violent confrontation Monday in
southern Yucatan state.
Tossing bottles, eggs and fruit and wielding sticks, supporters of the
Revolutionary Party, of PRI -- which lost Mexico's presidency this year after 71
years in power -- prevented the supervisors from taking possession of election
offices, despite a court order that unseated the old board.
Several opposition party activists were pushed, kicked or hit with eggs,
was beaten with sticks, as they tried to accompany the supervisors to their
offices, the government news agency Notimex reported.
Local police did not intervene to restrain the PRI supporters, despite
the fact the
confrontation took place just blocks from the state government headquarters in
the Yucatan capital of Merida, 620 miles (990 kms) east of Mexico City.
Despite the potential for more violence in the PRI's bid to hang on to
one of its
last bastions of support, a spokeswoman for President Vicente Fox said his
administration would not intervene.
"The judicial branch, not the executive branch, has the decision on the
use of law
enforcement agencies" to resolve the standoff, said spokeswoman Martha
Sahagun. "Of course, the government hopes the use of force will not be needed."
Opposition activists accuse the state's PRI governor, Victor Cervera, of
the demonstration as part of an effort to rob the May 27 gubernatorial elections
by stacking local boards with PRI supporters, and then defying an order by the
Federal Electoral Tribunal to replace them.
PRI supporters have tried to make the dispute a question of states' rights,
claiming -- without much legal ground -- that only the state congress, not the
federal court, can name state election officials. The Constitution does give the
court that power in certain cases.
The PRI also sought Monday to make the United States an issue in the dispute,
when PRI legislators said federal authorities should consider expelling the U.S.
consul in Yucatan, who had reportedly attended an opposition-party convention
Officials at the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City were not immediately available
comment on the report. Mexico's Constitution prohibits foreigners from getting
involved in domestic politics.
'No foreigner should be allowed to trample on the sovereignty of Yucatan
PRI legislator Myrna Hoyos said during a heated debate in the PRI-dominated
Opposition lawmaker Sergio Chan Lugo countered by accusing the PRI of
"seeking to defend the strong-arm rule of Victor Cervera, even at the cost of
violating the law."
Manuel Bacab, one of the leaders of the PRI demonstrators, said "we came
to oppose a violation of the sovereignty of Yucatan state."
The court-designated supervisors, charged with overseeing the May 27 voting,
were finally sworn into duty by three notary publics in a park near the election
office building, but the old board has refused to leave the facilities.
After losing the presidency in July elections, the PRI has lost governorships
two other key states. It's only gubernatorial victory in 2000, in nearby Tabasco
state, was overturned by the same court because of widespread fraud.
The PRI allegedly used vote-buying, ballot-stuffing and pressure tactics
many elections in the past. For example, Cervera toured Yucatan giving out
building materials, bicycles and other gifts immediately before the July elections.
On Sunday, Fox's National Action Party named its candidate for governor
May elections, Federal Sen. Patricio Patron Laviada. the state capital, Merida, on
Some opposition parties have demanded the federal government use force,
necessary, to enforce the court ruling. PRI Gov. Victor Cervera Pacheco on
Saturday warned federal officials that, saying he would "do everything in my
ability to safeguard the regime."