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Leftist Has Mexico City Race Lead

May 31, 2000

MEXICO CITY (AP) _ A leftist candidate trying to defend his party’s hold on the mayorship of Mexico City _ one of the country’s most important political prizes _ faced off in a debate with his rivals Tuesday, as a new poll showed him firmly in the lead.

Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of the Democratic Revolution Party began the debate against his four opponents by vowing to create a government with closer ties to the people. He said he would add another layer of very local government and cut benefits for top officials.

``There won’t be luxury offices. We will lower the salaries of high-level public servants. We won’t buy late-model vehicles. We won’t use bodyguards,″ he said. ``We can’t have a rich government and a poor people.″

The four other candidates spent much of their time criticizing the current Democratic Revolution administration in Mexico City.

A survey published Tuesday in the newspaper Reforma showed Lopez Obrador had widened his lead to 17 percentage points over his two major rivals. The election is July 2.

Mexico City, with close to 9 million people, is the political, financial and cultural heart of this highly centralized country, and the mayor wields significant power.

Jesus Silva-Herzog, the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party candidate, said in three years under Democratic Revolution, the government has built 203 houses, and pledged to build 100,000 over his six-year term.

He blamed the current government for crime, corruption and constant demonstrations that clog traffic _ all problems that were at least as bad during his own party’s rule of the city.

``This city is sick, very sick, and needs emergency care,″ he said. ``Our city needs to put order into the disorder in which we live.″

Added center-right National Action Party candidate Santiago Creel: ``We work day and night here. We have a city that never stops. And we have a government that is practically lying down.″

``On July 2, do we want more of the 70 years of ruling-party corruption or of the 1,000 days of Democratic Revolution incompetence?″ he asked.

The vote is especially important for Democratic Revolution, Mexico’s main leftist party, which had seen limited electoral success before a stunning landslide in 1997 elected the party’s Cuauhtemoc Cardenas, who resigned last year to run for president.

The landslide followed decades in which the mayor was appointed by the president, who for 71 years has been a member of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party.

Although Cardenas had limited success in creating the large-scale changes he had promised, his interim successor, Rosario Robles, has been popular.

In the poll, 44 percent of respondents planned to vote for Lopez Obrador, compared with 27 percent each for Silva Herzog, Mexico’s former ambassador to the United States, and Creel, a former congressional leader. Two percent said they would vote for minor-party candidates.

The poll indicated support for Lopez Obrador was surging; a poll by the same newspaper last month showed him favored by 41 percent of likely voters, compared to 30 percent for Silva Herzog and 28 percent for Creel. A March poll showed the three in a technical tie.

Reforma conducted face-to-face interviews with 1,109 people May 19-21. Like its previous polls, it had a margin of error of three percentage points.

The elections for president, congress and many local posts will be held July 2. National Action’s presidential candidate, Vicente Fox, is running generally even in the polls with ruling-party candidate Francisco Labastida.

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