Mexico Riven by Deep Social, Political Divide; Economic Inequality Underlies Oaxaca Unrest, Capital Protests

Article excerpt

Byline: Sharon Behn, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Violent demonstrations reflecting a vast left-right chasm in Mexican politics threaten to shutter Oaxaca state, a tourist region, while protests over a disputed presidential election have throttled parts of Mexico City.

Though there is no direct connection between the unrest in Oaxaca and central Mexico City, both go to a deeper problem of economic inequality in a nation that has a long history of an underemployed work force moving to the United States and elsewhere.

Apart from the protests in Oaxaca, supporters of leftist presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the popular former governor of Mexico City, have taken over the national capital's main square.

Yesterday, likely President-elect Felipe Calderon or even create an alternative government to collect taxes and help the poor.

"We will never again allow an illegal and illegitimate government to be installed in our country," Mr. Lopez Obrador told his supporters.

He refuses to accept the results of the July election, which Mr. Calderon is said to have won by a razor-thin margin.

The nation's top electoral court on Monday ruled that widespread fraud did not occur, and the court is expected to validate the results by Sept. 6.

Analysts say that Mexico's economy, boosted by the high price of oil, has been performing well this year, making it difficult to American tourists on Friday to avoid the state capital.

Many believe the unrest in Oaxaca is part of a larger problem in Mexico, a country that has been polarized by the vast gap between rich and poor and by widespread corruption.

"We are beginning to see signs of a lack of integration in the country," said Christopher Sabatini of the Council of the Americas. "These are the knotty problems that Mexico needs to grapple with: the state, parties, the economy."

For Eduardo Ramos Gomez, president of the U. …