Mexico’s ruling party likely to pull TV ad comparing Lopez Obrador to Chavez |

Mexico’s ruling party likely to pull TV ad comparing Lopez Obrador to Chavez

MEXICO CITY – Mexico’s ruling party said Sunday it will likely pull a television advertisement comparing presidential front-runner Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador to Venezuela’s socialist president, Hugo Chavez, which caused a stir in both countries.Traveling in the central state of Guanajuato, Manuel Espino, head of President Vicente Fox’s conservative National Action Party, said he thought officials would cancel the controversial commercial, but did not elaborate.He said the party produced the ad as a way of forcing Mexico’s Federal Electoral Institute to investigate charges that Chavez and his government had been supporting Lopez Obrador’s campaign in violation of Mexican law, which bars foreigners from influencing elections here.The ad, sponsored by National Action, features a video clip from November of Chavez threatening Fox, and then cuts to Lopez Obrador telling the president during a campaign stop to “shut up, citizen president.”Fox is barred by the constitution from running again and Lopez Obrador, a leftist, former Mexico City mayor, leads public opinion polls to replace him during elections July 2.Former energy secretary Felipe Calderon won National Action’s nomination, but most pollsters see him trailing Lopez Obrador by a wide margin. Roberto Madrazo, whose Institutional Revolutionary Party controlled Mexico’s presidency for 71 years straight before losing to Fox in 2000, is believed to be in third place.Both Calderon and Madrazo have complained for weeks about pro-Chavez forces “infiltrating” the Lopez Obrador campaign. The former mayor’s Democratic Revolutionary Party, which is seeking the presidency as part of an alliance with two smaller parties, denies those charges and condemned the National Action commercial as “dirty and false propaganda.”After the ad began airing, Chavez complained about the use of his image to attack Lopez Obrador, saying “the Mexican right is using television spots … to try and stop the rise of the Mexican left and of its presidential candidate.”A day later, Fox’s office responded by saying no foreigner is allowed to interfere with Mexican elections.Foreign Secretary Luis Ernesto Derbez said this country would not respond with a formal diplomatic complaint against Venezuela. Still, the head of the electoral institute said it seems “undesirable and imprudent that a foreigner of Hugo Chavez’s stature is giving an opinion about the content of Mexican electoral matters.”Asked Sunday if the commercial would continue to be seen, Espino said “I don’t think so because the (electoral institute) has made a pronouncement on the issue and that was very important because it was doing nothing,” according to a transcript distributed by National Action.Venezuela and Mexico have been embroiled in a diplomatic spat since last fall’s Summit of the Americas in Argentina, when Fox criticized Chavez for opposing a U.S.-backed Free Trade Area of the Americas. Chavez responded by calling Mexico an “ally of the empire.”During his television show days later, Chavez made the threats that appear in the campaign commercial, warning Fox, “Don’t mess with me, sir, because you’ll get stung.”Both countries withdrew their ambassadors and severed all but trade relations.

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