Mexico: Fox blinks in showdown over presidential race

It is a looming nightmare for Washington, but Mexico may be the next to join the fast-growing loose alliance of left-populist governments in Latin America, if Mexico City Mayor Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of the left-opposition Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) becomes president next year, joining Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, Lula da Silva of Brazil, Nestor Kirchner of Argentina and Tabare Vazquez of Uruguay. Not surprisingly, the power structure around President Vicente Fox’s ruling right-wing National Action Party (PAN) has moved to block Lopez Obrador’s candidacy through legalistic prestidigitation. But the PAN regime now appears to be backing down in the face of sustained and determined protest. From Reuters:

Mexico’s Fox fires attorney general to ease crisis

28.04.05 3.20pm

MEXICO CITY – President Vicente Fox fired his attorney general today to try to end a crisis over obscure legal charges that threaten to knock Mexico’s most popular politician out of 2006 presidential elections.

The move was a major victory for Mexico City’s leftist mayor, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who holds a clear lead in polls for the elections but would be blocked from running if he is found guilty in the case.

Backing down to intense pressure, Fox fired Rafael Macedo, the attorney general who led the campaign to put Lopez Obrador on trial for contempt of court charges in a minor land dispute.

“My government will prevent no one from participating in the next federal election race,” Fox said in a national television and radio address.

He said his new attorney general would thoroughly review the case against Lopez Obrador and “look to preserve the country’s greatest political harmony within the limits of the law.”

Lopez Obrador has accused Fox’s government of pushing bogus legal charges to block his road to the presidential palace. The case has battered Fox’s reputation at home and abroad.

Hundreds of thousands of Mexicans marched in silence through the capital last Sunday in support of Lopez Obrador, a feisty former Indian rights activist who promises to work for Mexico’s poor if elected.

Fox made history when he ended 71 years of one-party rule at elections in 2000, but critics have accused him of betraying democracy by confronting the mayor.