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Mexico Church Warns vs. Vote Fraud

June 12, 2000

MEXICO CITY (AP) _ Mexico’s Catholic Church plans to blanket its parishes with warnings against electoral fraud in the run-up to the presidential elections, the Mexican media reported Sunday.

``To collaborate directly or indirectly in electoral fraud is a serious sin that harms human rights and offends God,″ read posters that the Catholic Church, which has started playing a more public role in national life, will put up in 7,000 parishes in the weeks leading up to the July 2 elections, the Reforma newspaper reported.

Mexico is in the midst of the country’s most hotly contested presidential race ever. Francisco Labastida of the PRI, which has governed the country for 71 years, is running neck and neck in the polls with opposition candidate Vicente Fox of the National Action Party.

By all accounts, Mexico is expected to have its cleanest election day ever thanks to a new independent elections institute. But officials have expressed concern about dirty campaign tactics and accusations of coercion.

Parishes in the major cities of this predominantly Catholic country in upcoming weeks also will hold workshops on ``political education and citizen awareness,″ Reforma reported.

Meanwhile, residents in southern Mexico released two people Sunday after holding them overnight against their will for campaigning for the ruling party, the government news agency Notimex reported.

Caralampio Lopez Rodriguez and Manuela Amparo Garcia were let go Sunday morning _ about 12 hours after residents detained them. But first they were forced to tear down the campaign posters they had hung for PRI in the village of Espiritu Santo in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas, Notimex reported.

The village is a stronghold of the leftist Democratic Revolution Party, whose presidential candidate Cuauhtemoc Cardenas is running a distant third in the polls, Notimex reported.

In the city of Nogales on the Mexico-Arizona border, police arrested a woman with a pistol hidden under her vest at a campaign rally for Labastida, Notimex also reported Sunday.

The woman did not say why she showed up to the event with a gun, but she appeared to be psychologically unstable, Notimex quoted police as saying.

Six years ago, presidential candidate Luis Donaldo Colosio was shot to death at a campaign rally in the Mexican border city of Tijuana.

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