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Cablegate: Mexico's Dramatic Political Weekend

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77216
2006-09-05 20:34:00
06MEXICO4987
Embassy Mexico
CONFIDENTIAL
06MEXICO4707
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TAGS: ECON ELAB PINR PGOV MX
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MEXICO 004987

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/05/2016
TAGS: ECON ELAB PINR PGOV MX
SUBJECT: MEXICO'S DRAMATIC POLITICAL WEEKEND
REF: MEXICO 4707

Classified By: POLITICAL MINISTER COUNSELOR CHARLES V. BARCLAY REASONS:
1.4 (B/D).

1. (C) Summary: On Friday, September 1, the Revolutionary
Democratic Party (PRD) made good on its promise to prevent
President Fox from delivering his final annual report to the
Mexican Congress, part of the PRD's commitment to Andres
Manuel Lopez Obrador's (AMLO's) plan to humiliate the
President (reftel). AMLO backed down from leading his
supporters to convene on the Congress, while political party
representatives who spoke before Fox's scheduled address
complained about a state of siege by federal forces which had
established a security perimeter around the Congress.
Although unpopular with most Mexicans, the PRD's successful
strategy to block Fox from taking the podium is likely to
have emboldened it to try to disrupt President-elect Felipe
Calderon's inauguration on December 1. End summary.

2. (C) In the minutes before Fox was scheduled to enter the
Congress on September 1, PRD legislators took control of the
congressional dais, chanting AMLO's slogan "vote by vote,
polling place by polling place" and making it effectively
impossible for Fox to deliver his speech there. Some PRD
lawmakers also held up banners calling Fox a "traitor" to
democracy. Chamber President Jorge Zermeno of the ruling PAN
party unsuccessfully urged the opposition legislators to
return to their seats and then declared a recess. In an
atmosphere more comical than hostile, PAN legislators
responded to PRD heckling by shouting "Vicente."

3. (C) Upon arriving at the Congress, Fox stopped at the
lobby entrance and remarked, "faced with the attitude of a
group of legislators that makes it impossible to read the
speech I have prepared for this occasion, I am leaving the
building." He then hand-delivered his prepared address to
congressional officials and returned to the presidential
palace, where he gave his speech on television. In that
address, Fox characterized the legislators' actions as "not
an affront to me personally but to the office of the
president and the Mexican people." A snap poll in Mexico's
Reforma newspaper showed that 77 percent of Mexicans
disapproved of the PRD's efforts to prevent Fox from
delivering his final state-of-the-nation address (Note:
Mexican press has been overwhelmingly critical of the PRD's
action. End note).

4. (C) That same day, AMLO backed down from urging his
supporters to converge on the Congress. In the face of a
robust federal security ring established around the area
leading to the Congress, AMLO told supporters that he would
not fall into the government's "trap." On September 3, at
his daily address to supporters on the Zocalo, AMLO asked
them to sustain the peaceful resistance and said that Mexico
needs a "radical transformation." He also warned the army,
as he has in the past, not to take action against the people
that would bring it "disrespect," alluding to darker periods
of repression in Mexico's history. AMLO has called for the
convening of a National Democratic Convention on September
16, the same day that Mexico celebrates its Independence and
the army is scheduled to parade along the very same route now
blocked by protesters.

5 (C) Comment: Only two other Mexican presidents in the past
180 years have not been able to deliver their
state-of-the-nation address to the Congress, and this was the
first time in modern history that a president was blocked
from doing so. While the PRD continues to lose public
support in the face of its increasingly radical tactics,
AMLO's strategy to provoke a crisis of governability has
gained some traction in the short-run and showed that he
still has control over his party. AMLO's actions have also
contributed to undermining the credibility of Mexico's
electoral institutions and further weakening the presidency.
Even if AMLO now begins to retreat in terms of pressuring
Mexico's government from the streets - a possible but not
certain outcome following today's ruling - the PRD can be
expected to do everything in its power to limit Felipe
Calderon's ability to govern once he takes office. The PRD's
September 1 behavior should be seen as a dress rehearsal for
December 1, when it will likely seek to prevent the
President-elect from delivering his acceptance speech. The
challenge for Calderon's team will be crafting an inaugural
event that contains the PRD. With only two months to go
before assuming the presidency, the slimmest of mandates to

MEXICO 00004987 002 OF 002


govern, and an obstructionist Congress facing him, Calderon
enters office with an extremely steep hill to climb.


Visit Mexico City's Classified Web Site at
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/wha/mexicocity

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