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Amid protests, Enrique Peña Nieto sworn in as Mexico's president

December 01, 2012|By Daniel Hernandez and Cecilia Sanchez
  • Mexico's outgoing president, Felipe Calderon, left, gives a Mexican flag to Enrique Peña Nieto during the official transfer of command ceremony at the National Palace in Mexico City.
Mexico's outgoing president, Felipe Calderon, left, gives a Mexican… (Associated Press / Mexican…)

MEXICO CITY -- Enrique Peña Nieto, a telegenic and politically savvy former state governor, was sworn in as president of Mexico on Saturday in a raucous ceremony marked by violent protests that left several people wounded.

One student demonstrator who clashed with police received a head wound and was in critical condition, the Mexican Red Cross said.

The protests reflected discontent among some Mexicans who accuse Peña Nieto and his Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) of using bribery and other tricks to win the election.  An election tribunal ruled against formal complaints and judged the July 1 election legitimate.
 
In Saturday’s ceremony in the lower house of congress, Peña Nieto received the red, white and green presidential sash from his predecessor Felipe Calderon, whose six-year term was marked by a military-led war on drug trafficking gangs, ghastly violence and sluggish economic growth. Calderon kissed the sash before handing it over.

“Mexico! Mexico!” people in the audience chanted.

The inauguration marks the return to power of the PRI, which ruled for seven decades until being ousted from the presidency in 2000. Peña Nieto has promised a new and modern PRI that will not resort to its old tactics of corrupt, autocratic rule. Not all Mexicans are convinced.
 
There were protests inside and out of the heavily guarded San Lazaro Palace that houses the lower chamber of Congress.

One huge black banner hoisted by leftist congressmen declared "Mexico in mourning," alluding to the tens of thousands of people killed during the six-year Calderon administration. Others complained about what they contend was an unfair election and the “imposition” of Peña Nieto.

In the streets outside, students and others repeatedly clashed with police. One group of demonstrators hurled rocks and Molotov cocktails at metal barriers erected to block access to the congress. Police fired tear gas and rubber-covered metal bullets. Several injuries were reported.

“We wanted to show Peña Nieto that we are here and we are going to watch him and we will be paying attention to his government,” said university student Francisco Tellez, 21.

The young man in critical condition was identified as a member of a student protest movement that emerged during the election campaign to denounce, among other things, the control of airwaves by a television monopoly that gave favorable coverage to Peña Nieto.

Saturday’s inauguration was a formality. Peña Nieto technically became president at the first minute past midnight Saturday.

Despite the protests, the circumstances surrounding the inauguration were much calmer than the last one six years ago. Calderon had defeated leftist candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador by the tiniest of margins and much of the left never accepted the results.

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Times staff writer Tracy Wilkinson contributed to this report.

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