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Officials have yet to charge Mexico City mayor

MEXICO CITY—It's been a week since Congress stripped Mexico's most popular politician of immunity from criminal prosecution, but Mexico City Mayor Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is still waiting in his modest apartment to be arrested, which could come soon—or not.

Unruffled, the mayor thinks his political opponents, among them President Vicente Fox, the federal attorney general and lifelong enemies of his leftist ideology, are postponing the moment for one reason: The more time passes before he appears before a judge, the less time he has to find legal ways to run for president in 2006.

"This is my hypothesis. It's not only an insult to me, it's a crush to the advance of democracy in Mexico because they're taking away people's right to choose," Lopez Obrador said Thursday.

There's been no official word from Fox or the attorney general, Rafael Macedo de la Concha, on when charges might be filed, though the prosecutor who handled the investigation against Lopez Obrador said Tuesday that he might file in five or 10 days.

Macedo's office has accused Lopez Obrador of ignoring a court ruling issued March 14, 2001, to stop construction on a 250-yard-long access road in northwestern Mexico City. It was in expectation of criminal contempt of court charges that Congress last week stripped Lopez Obrador of his immunity from prosecution.

But so far nothing. On Thursday, though, the president's office issued a statement denying reports that Fox was considering pardoning Lopez Obrador. The statement said the report, attributed to an official responsible for dealing with foreign reporters, was unauthorized and not correct.

Lopez Obrador was unsurprised. "It would be very strange for Fox to pardon me," he mused.

Lopez Obrador has scored one victory since Congress' vote a week ago: The Mexican Supreme Court announced Thursday that it would hear the claim by Lopez Obrador's supporters on Mexico City's city council that Congress had acted unconstitutionally when it stripped him of his immunity. The council members say only the Supreme Court has that authority.

Meanwhile, the mayor has taken to holding public meetings and news conferences at a park across the street from his apartment to an ever growing and increasingly raucous crowd of supporters. Chants of "Obrador! Obrador!" often deafen the mayor's words.

His apartment building is plastered with posters against Fox, often depicted as a devil, and other presidential aspirants. By the thousands, maids in aprons, women in designer clothes, farmers in straw hats and laborers with calloused hands, hand him flowers, warm bread and whatever they think he needs to get through this time.

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(c) 2005, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

PHOTOS (from KRT Photo Service, 202-383-6099): MEXICO-MAYOR

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