Thousands Rail Against Mexico's President And Ruling Party In 'March For Democracy'

The opposition-led demonstrations called for free and fair elections, just days after presidential frontrunner Claudia Sheinbaum announced her candidacy.

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Thousands of demonstrators cloaked in pink marched through cities in Mexico and abroad on Sunday in what they called a “march for democracy” targeting the country’s ruling party in advance of the country’s June 2 elections.

The demonstrations called by Mexico’s opposition parties advocated for free and fair elections in the Latin American nation and railed against corruption just days after presidential front-runner Claudia Sheinbaum officially announced her candidacy under the country’s ruling party Morena.

Sheinbaum is largely seen as a continuation candidate of Mexico’s highly popular leader Andrés Manuel López Obrador. He’s adored by many voters who say he bucked the country’s elite parties from power in 2018 and represents the working class.

But the 70-year-old populist president has also been accused of making moves that endanger the country’s democracy. Last year, the leader slashed funding for the country’s electoral agency, National Electoral Institute, and weaken oversight of campaign spending, something INE’s head said could “wind up poisoning democracy itself.” The agency’s color, pink, has been used as a symbol by demonstrators.

López Obrador has also attacked journalists in hours-long press briefings, has frequently attacked Mexico’s judiciary and claimed judges are part of a conservative conspiracy against his administration.

In Mexico City on Sunday, thousands of people dressed in pink flocked to the the city’s main plaza roaring “get López out.” Others carried signs reading “the power of the people is greater than the people in power.”

Gabriel Ozuna, 61, was among them cloaked in pink. She said she and her family came from Baja California state, and were participating in the march to push for a variety of candidates to have a chance. She said she had protested in previous pro-democracy marches as well.

Ozuna said she was also protesting attacks and slayings of candidates by drug cartels, especially prominent in local elections.

“We know our democracy is in danger. What we want to do is defend it and keep defending it,” Ozuna said, adding it was important “for citizens to participate, not just be a part of a political party.”

Among the opposition organizations marching were National Civic Front, Yes for Mexico, Citizen Power, Civil Society Mexico, UNE Mexico and United for Mexico.

“Democracy doesn’t solve lack of water, it doesn’t solve hunger, it doesn’t solve a lot of things. But without democracy you can’t solve anything,” said Enrique de la Madrid Cordero, a prominent politician from the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, in a video posted to social media calling for people to join the protests.

The PRI held uninterrupted power in Mexico for more than 70 years.

Marches were organized in a hundred cities across the country, and in other cities in the United States and Spain.

Still, the president remains highly popular and his ally Sheinbaum appears set to coast easily into the presidency. She leads polls by a whopping 64% over her closest competition, Xóchitl Gálvez, who has polled at 31% of the votes.

López Obrador railed against the protests during is Friday morning press briefing, questioning whether the organizers cared about democracy.

“They are calling the demonstration to defend corruption, they are looking for the return of the corrupt, although they say they care about democracy,” he said.

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