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Mexico’s Presidential Contenders Crisscross the Country on Eve of Vote

Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, Mexico City's leftist former mayor, squares off with conservative, ruling party candidate Felipe Calderon in Mexico's highly contested presidential elections. Ray Suarez reports from Mexico on the eve of the vote.

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  • RAY SUAREZ:

    Mexico is doing something new: holding a highly-competitive presidential campaign that could lead to the second consecutive transfer of power to a new political party, a real hallmark of democracy.

    As the candidates crisscrossed the country in a final, furious rush of campaigning, more than one man really had a chance to win, even after one party, the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, held a monopoly of power for so long. Mexicans have overcome their distrust of elections in a very short time.

    Six years after the PRI's seven-decade monopoly was broken by President Vicente Fox and his National Action Party, the country has reached a defining moment, according to veteran immigrants rights campaigner Primitivo Rodriguez.

  • PRIMITIVO RODRIGUEZ, Immigrants Rights Campaigner:

    Why is this election so important? Because we may see very clearly that Mexico is already part of the democratic countries around the world; that Mexico has elections the same way the United States, France, or, for that matter, Brazil in Latin America or Costa Rica.

    We're no longer the country where a perfect dictatorship used to rule our lives. Our leaders are there, are in power due to ballots, not to bullets, not to fraud.

  • RAY SUAREZ:

    Many parties jumped into the fray, but three men are way ahead in the final polls: Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, former mayor of Mexico City and nominee of an alliance of left-wing parties, led by the Revolutionary Democratic Party, or PRD; Roberto Madrazo, president of the PRI and former governor of the state of Tabasco; and Felipe Calderon, PAN nominee and former energy minister.

    A week before Election Day, his party filled the cavernous Azteca Stadium in the capital. Flanked by his wife and kids, Calderon stressed political continuity, jobs, the risk to Mexico of electing his opponents, and his own preparation for the job.

  • FELIPE CALDERON, PAN Presidential Candidate (through translator):

    I'm ready for the responsibility that lies ahead. I'm prepared, professionally and spiritually, for the job. All my life, I have prepared myself for this, because I know the problems of Mexico, because I know the alternatives to resolve them, because I have the experience. I tell you with absolute tranquility of conscience that I am ready to be the next president of Mexico.

  • RAY SUAREZ:

    Calderon promises to continue Mexico's integration into the world economy, welcoming investment and economic stability. He presents himself as both the continuation of the policies implemented by President Vicente Fox and the safe alternative to his left-wing rival, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

  • ANDRES MANUEL LOPEZ OBRADOR, PRD Presidential Candidate (through translator):

    We're going to bring our people out of the past, out of poverty, and end their marginalization. That's what this movement is all about.

    It's not the same, old fight, like, "You get out of the way so I can take over." It's not a fight for the sake of power. It's not even a fight about money. It has fallen to me to lead this movement. I have been placed in this position, and I'm going to act with rectitude. I'm going to deliver for the people.

  • RAY SUAREZ:

    But which people? Lopez Obrador's potent slogan is "For the good of all, but first for the poor." And while all the candidates have some crossover appeal, Lopez Obrador supporters cheer when their man describes his plans to collect unpaid taxes from the wealthy and renegotiate the part of NAFTA that exposed farmers of beans and corn to American competition.

    Lopez Obrador's appeal to lower-income Mexicans is clear at a Mexico City street fair on the feast of St. John the Baptist, where Claudia Martinez sells roast corn.

  • CLAUDIA MARTINEZ, Street Vendor (through translator):

    The most important thing, I think, is that he will help the citizens, people like us who make a living selling as merchants.

  • RAY SUAREZ:

    In the industrial city of Toluca, where Juan Manuel Moreno works for the local government…

  • JUAN MANUEL MORENO, Lopez Obrador Supporter (through translator):

    I think that Lopez Obrador is capable. He's honest; he's responsible; he's hard-working.

    In the administration he's just finished in Mexico, the government of the city has the least expensive public transportation in the country, has better employment opportunities. He created a public university for the people with low incomes and for those over 40.

  • RAY SUAREZ:

    And Lopez Obrador attracts support from many Mexico City residents who are well past the age of 40. The Salon Los Angeles (ph) is a Mexico City dance hall where older residents take to the floor twice a week and show off their moves to Latin big band music.

    Their social benefits were raised by Lopez Obrador during his term as mayor of Mexico City. And now he's pledging to do the same for elderly Mexicans all over the country.

  • GONZALO LECHUGA, Lopez Obrador Supporter (through translator):

    Right now, I have the support of Lopez Obrador. His support he gives to those people who are 70 and older. So for us, he is the ideal person to be elected on July 2nd, Election Day, to lead our country.