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Last Updated: Saturday, 16 September 2006, 12:38 GMT 13:38 UK
The many colours of Mexico
By Duncan Kennedy
BBC, Mexico City

Mexicans like their colours, whether it is the garish paintwork on the sides of their buses or the more sombre symbols of their political parties.

And nowhere has colour been more on show than in Zocalo Square, the massive central gathering space in the heart of the capital.

Mexican family in traditional costume on Zocalo Square
Colour is an important feature of Mexican life
For the past seven weeks it has been the colour of white that has dominated this historic setting, the white associated with huge marquees.

That is because it is where thousands of supporters of the defeated presidential candidate, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, have been camped out.

But now that white has given way to the red white and green of the Mexican flag.

The tent poles have been pulled up and the guide ropes loosened to make way for the country's Independence Day celebrations.

Zocalo is where they are always based. But this year no-one knew whether they would have to be moved because of those marquees and the protesters that went with them.

The colour purple

In the end, Mr Lopez Obrador changed tack and said the tent city would be dismantled. For the sake of a sacred national event, he reasoned.

Vicente Fox holds Mexican flag during celebrations in Dolores Hidalgo
The tricolour flag is an important symbol for both sides
By that time President Fox had already abandoned plans to give his annual Independence day address to the crowds in the square. Too dangerous, said his advisers.

Mr Lopez Obrador's supporters see red when they think of President Fox and there were reports they would try to stop him making his speech.

And so down came the marquees and up went the vivid shades of the Mexican flag. All around the square.

Mr Lopez Obrador's opponents have their own interpretation of his actions and again it involves a colour. The purple colour of embarrassment, they say, for his humiliating climb-down.

Others may be more generous and say it is the act of a man who has come to his political senses. Not the white flag of retreat but a sensible review of strategy after the courts declared his rival, Felipe Calderon the winner in the race to be president.

Mr Lopez Obrador, not surprisingly, sees it differently. He says he is merely moving his campaign forward.

Not black-and-white

After seven weeks of living in tents he has decided the resistance movement to the new president-elect needs a different approach.

Supporters of Mr Lopez Obrador in Mexico City
Mr Lopez Obrador considers himself a champion of poorer Mexicans
That is why he has organised his "National Democratic Convention", to seek out fresh ideas.

Whether he can continue to carry his supporters on this still-to-be-scripted venture is a question no-one can yet answer.

Which brings us back to more colours. Mr Lopez Obrador's detractors say it is green colour of envy that now drives him - envy of his opponent's victory.

Mr Lopez Obrador would deny that, saying he fights on because he is the victim of electoral fraud, and for the poor whose cause he champions.

Knowing the crisis still facing Mexico and its politics, whatever he does, the country's future is unlikely to be black and white.


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