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Latin America has seen a dramatic shift to the political left in recent years

Posted on 02 September 2010

Latin America has seen a dramatic shift to the political left in recent years, notably with the coming to power eight years ago of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, followed by Nestor Kirchner in Argentina and, most recently, Evo Morales in Bolivia. For several months, polls have shown Lopez Obrador in a dead heat with his PAN rival, Felipe Calderon. Yesterday, a new survey published in La Reforma newspaper gave the leftist a tiny lead of three points. Less than three weeks from a presidential election, they are facing a stark and potentially portentous choice: to support the candidate of the ruling centre-right PAN party of outgoing president Vicente Fox, or tack abruptly to the left with the socialist PRD party, whose charismatic, populist candidate, Manuel Andres Lopez Obrador, 52, is bringing his raucous campaign caravan into Tizimin today.With so much at stake in a country that only saw democracy take hold fully in 2000 when Fox ended more than seven decades of single party rule, it is a race that has inevitably turned vicious, with insults and dark allegations traded daily and even a botched shooting in Mexico City involving family members of a jailed businessman claiming to have a video showing aides of Lopez Obrador accepting bribes.Mexicans are entirely unaccustomed to political suspense of this kind. Waiting for them in the blazing sun are row upon row of low wooden seats facing a make-shift stage festooned in yellow banners and plastic bunting.
If the hearts of most Mexicans are beating harder in these days of early summer, it is not just because of soccer. By the hundreds – many of the women dressed in the white embroidered dresses of Yucatan’s Mayan heritage – they stream on foot and by bicycle into the main square enclosed on two sides by an 18th-century Franciscan cathedral and ruined convent. But before going home, they have one more spectacle to enjoy.

They found gas canisters, fuses, chemicals and a protective suit against chemical attacks.During a second series of arrests, in January 2004 in Venissieux, near Lyons, investigators found chemical products, including ricin.. It is Sunday afternoon and the people of Tizimin, a modest market town barely 100 miles west of Cancun but far removed from the prosperity of the tourist beaches of the Caribbean, are spilling out of brightly coloured bars after seeing Mexico beat Iran 3-1 in the World Cup. The so-called Chechen network was dismantled in two series of raids.In December 2002, police stormed two apartments in the northern Paris suburbs of La Courneuve and Romainville. He denounced the “extraordinary hypocrisy” of the court for accepting such evidence.The public prosecutor was unable to provide proof that a chemical attack was planned, although police seized a protective suit, and chemicals including the highly toxic substance, ricin.

She married him after he was convicted and jailed in France.Another defence lawyer, S?stien Bono, said the trial had partly been based on the confession of his client, Arif, which he said had been obtained under torture in Syria. “This was a truly political verdict”.Mme Coutant-Peyre is the wife of the 1970s terrorist leader Carlos the Jackal. France had been “told to condemn Muslims who annoy these powers”, she said. The group was nonetheless named the “Chechen” network by French anti-terrorist investigators.After the verdicts and sentences were delivered, Benhamed’s lawyer, Isabelle Coutant-Peyre, said the defendants were “accused of being Muslims” and the sentences had been dictated by the United States, Algeria and Russia. The main defendants were former members of the Algerian Islamist organisation, the Groupe Islamique Arm?GIA).Others, recruited in the Paris and Lyons suburbs had been sent to training camps in the Caucasus but had never fought in the Chechen civil war. Benchellali, 32, was accused of “manipulating chemicals”.Other defendants, including Benchellali’s father, mother and brother were accused of playing relatively minor roles in the plot and received light or suspended sentences. Said Arif and Nourredine Merabet received nine-year jail terms.Benhamed, 33, was accused of being the “orchestra director” and “promoter” of the plot.

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