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Mexico Unstable in Aftermath of Elections

As dissatisfaction grows with recent election results, protests have given way to violence in some Mexican cities; many say the conflicts will escalate, further endangering the country’s citizens, businesses, and tourism industry.

After a tight loss in the July 2nd presidential election to National Action Party candidate, Felipe Calderon, and the partial vote recount still in favor of Calderon, Party of the Democratic Revolution candidate, Andres Manual Lopez Obrador, called for civil resistance among his supporters.

Until recently, the protests had not been particularly aggressive, but after Obrador’s supporters set up camp in front of the congressional headquarters in Mexico City, the government sent police to disperse the gathering. After a seven-hour standoff, police released tear gas and forcibly moved resisters, several of whom were injured in the clash.

Neither the protesters nor the police show any sign of retreat, as police have kept armored tanks on the premises to ward off future protests and Obrador has insisted his supporters “[dig] in for a long, intensifying battle against alleged fraud.” While Obrador has publicly called for peaceful protests and the Christian Science Monitor describes this type of “sit-in” as a nonviolent, democratic gathering, some of Obrador’s supporters have suggested attempting takeovers of Mexico City’s airport and congress, which has led to increased security and vigilance on the part of the police. According to CNN, the government and outgoing President, Vicente Fox, were respecting the protesters’ freedom of speech, but patience was “wearing thin.”

The demonstrations have also caused major congestion in the capitol, blocking shop entrances and slowing business in the city. Some business owners have even threatened to withhold tax payments until the government takes action against the demonstrators. CNN reported that the political strife has already deterred foreigners from visiting, and the director of Mexico City tourism promotion said that if the protests continue, it could be a “desperate situation” for businesses related to tourism, an 118 billion-dollar industry in Mexico.

One of Mexico’s popular tourist destinations has already suffered a large-scale blow to its economy. Since Ulises Ruiz’s win in the governor’s race three months ago, tourism has come to a near halt in Oaxaca. According to Fox News, distress over the election resulted in strikes, barricaded roads, a string of violent acts within the city, attacks aimed at the media, and a number of reported deaths. The Association of Mexican Newspaper Editors noted, “The city of Oaxaca appears to be under a permanent state of siege.”

Mexico is already known for its high crime levels. According to the US State Department, theft, rape, kidnappings, “taxi robbery,” and corrupt actions on the part of Mexican officials continue at alarming rates. The addition of political unrest to such a reputation will make visitation to parts of the country decreasingly likely.

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