Mexican President sworn in amid fist-fights and jeering

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The Independent US

Felipe Calderon was sworn in as Mexico's President yesterday in a lightning-quick ceremony accompanied by jeers and whistles from the assembled crowd.

Arriving by a back door, Mr Calderon ignored the chaos around him as he took an oath to uphold the constitution. The leader of Mexico's Congress ordered the national anthem played, briefly subduing the shouts and cat-calls, before Mr Calderon made a quick exit.

Foreign dignitaries including the former US President, George HW Bush, and Colombia's President Alvaro Uribe, barely warmed their seats in a balcony above the ceremony.

Ruling party officials were seen dancing and embracing each other in celebration. Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) claims electoral fraud robbed him of the presidency in July's general election. In September, a tribunal declared Mr Calderon the winner by less than one percentage point.

After the inauguration, Mr Obrador led tens of thousands of supporters down Mexico City's Reforma Avenue carrying banners that read "Lopez Obrador is President".

After camping out in Congress for three days in an attempt to control the speaker's podium and prevent Calderon from taking office, Mr Obrador's supporters seized the chamber's entrances yesterday morning. They draped a giant banner across the chamber reading "Mexico doesn't deserve a traitor to democracy as president," and exchanged punches with ruling-party officials.

"It's good action," joked California's Governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, as he arrived.

Mr Calderon said: "I am not unaware of the complexity of the political times we are living through, nor of our differences. But I am convinced that today we should put an end to our disagreements,and from there ... place the interests of the nation above our differences."