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Mexican Leftists End Protests

Supporters of leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on Friday permanently ended the street protest that clogged the heart of the capital for two months, but they vowed to continue their civil resistance campaign.

Spokesman Cesar Yanez told The Associated Press that the protesters won't retake Mexico City's Reforma Avenue and its main plaza, the Zocalo, after they hold a convention on Saturday.

"Everything will return to normal," Yanez said.

Traffic was already flowing along Reforma, which had been blocked by tents, parked cars and buses in a protest to demand a recount in Mexico's tight presidential election on July 2. Lopez Obrador and his supporters have refused to recognize conservative Felipe Calderon's slim victory, claiming fraud and meddling by President Vicente Fox skewed the results.

Protesters started dismantling their tent city on Thursday to allow the Mexican military's parade to follow its traditional route on Saturday for the country's Independence Day celebrations.

Until now, protest organizers had suggested that the future of the protest camps would be decided at a "National Democratic Convention" on Saturday at which supporters will be asked if they want to declare Lopez Obrador as president of a parallel government to challenge Caldron's administration.

Lopez Obrador said he hopes to mass 1 million people for the convention.

Friday's announcement comes a day after Fox said he would move Friday night's annual Independence Day celebration away from Mexico City's main square to avoid protesters.

The decision prompted Lopez Obrador to declare victory in that battle with Fox. His supporters planned to throw their own Independence Day party in the Zocalo.

Lopez Obrador had called on his supporters to turn their backs when Fox made the traditional Independence night cry of "Viva Mexico!"

Fox's spokesman Ruben Aguilar said Friday the president moved the ceremony to Dolores Hidalgo, 170 miles away, because the government had "solid information" that "radical groups" were planning violence that could have caused deaths. He refused to give specifics.

Earlier Mexican presidents have sometimes celebrated the final Independence Day of their six-year terms in Dolores Hidalgo, a city of 130,000 people where Roman Catholic priest Miguel Hidalgo made the first cry for independence from Spain in 1810. The city is also in Fox's home state of Guanajuato, a bastion of support for his conservative National Action Party.

The last president to hold Independence Day celebrations there was Carlos Salinas in 1994.

The Fox administration has a history of backing down from confrontations.

On Sept. 1, lawmakers from Lopez Obrador's party took over the podium of Congress, preventing the president from delivering his last state-of-the-nation address there.

Last year, his administration threw out criminal charges that could have blocked Lopez Obrador's candidacy after the leftist led mass marches. And in 2002, Fox abandoned plans to build a new airport after machete-wielding farmers kidnapped a group of policemen and threatened to kill them.

Calderon, of Fox's National Action Party, is scheduled to take office on Dec. 1.

Traditionally, tens of thousands of Mexicans kick off their Independence Day celebrations with a visit to the Zocalo — an enormous plaza that houses the National Palace, City Hall, the metropolitan cathedral and a huge Mexican flag.

Lights fashioned in the shape of the nation's independence heroes are draped over the imposing cement colonial building facades, and the square is filled with people wielding miniature green, white and red Mexican flags, enormous straw sombreros, confetti and aerosol cans of foam.

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