MEXICO CITY – President-elect Felipe Calderon on Sunday called for reconciliation but promised to govern with "a firm hand," while his leftist rival Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador agreed to move protest camps to avoid clashing with the military's annual Independence Day parade.
Lopez Obrador's announcement that tent camps set up in the capital's main square and along a downtown boulevard would be at least temporarily removed on Sept. 16 defused one potential confrontation.
While Lopez Obrador has pledged to prevent Calderon from taking office, the conservative called on his followers to display tolerance and peace. Hundreds of Calderon supporters turned out to form a human chain "for harmony" along another downtown boulevard on Sunday.
"Mexico demands a government that governs with prudence, but at the same time, with a firm hand," Calderon said at his first mass victory celebration, held at an open-air bull ring where supporters chanted "Felipe! Felipe!"
Calderon's speech also included promises to fight poverty, inequality, crime and unemployment, which he defined as the country's main problems, and pledged to work directly with legislators to build alliances in congress.
He reached out to opponents, calling for a "philosophy of forgiveness," but also condemned what he called opposition forces "that represented the past."
In an apparent reference to Lopez Obrador, who refers to Calderon as an "usurper," a "spurious president," and claims the conservative won by fraud, Calderon said, "We defeated the past, which still threatens to trap Mexico in hatred and resentment."
The leftist has yet to say how he intends to stop Calderon from taking office, but earlier this month his allies took over the speaker's platform in Congress, preventing President Vicente Fox from delivering a state-of-the-nation address. They have staged angry protests and provoked shoving matches in the past at similar events and have vowed to block Calderon's swearing-in ceremony.
Lopez Obrador did not make clear whether the protest camps — which have become sparsely staffed in recent weeks — would return in their present form after the Sept. 16 parade.
The camps, which have blocked the main downtown boulevard for six weeks, were erected to press Lopez Obrador's demand for a full recount of votes, but since last week's court ruling declared the vote valid and Calderon the winner, Lopez Obrador has now turned his attention to a Sept. 16 convention he plans to hold in the main square immediately after the parade.
Lopez Obrador wants the convention — made of his supporters — to declare an alternative "government" to oppose Calderon.
"We are going to allow the Mexican army to carry out its military parade as planned," Lopez Obrador said Sunday in his daily speech to followers camped out in the main square, known as the Zocalo. "We have said we respect this institution (the army)."
Lopez Obrador had filed court challenges to the July 2 elections results, delaying the declaration of a winner.
Even after the court ruling, Calderon has been hounded in public by shouting, egg-tossing Lopez Obrador supporters.
Sunday, however, supporters of his conservative National Action Party finally took to the streets to celebrate, many dressed in white and chanting "We Want Peace!"
"We support Calderon and democracy, and there are more of us than there are of them," said Patricia Reyes, a 50-year-old health worker, as she participated in a stretch of the human chain near the offices of Lopez Obrador's Democratic Revolution Party.
Motioning to some of the leftist's followers, Reyes said, "they are ignorant ... they just want to cause problems."