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Mexico's president leads a massive pro-government march

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Hundreds of thousands of protesters were on the streets of Mexico City again yesterday. Earlier this month, the protests were against the president. Now his supporters have taken to the streets. NPR's Eyder Peralta reports.

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EYDER PERALTA, BYLINE: Paseo de la Reforma is the most iconic boulevard in Mexico City, and it is packed.

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PERALTA: There are marching bands and a crowd likely in the hundreds of thousands, and they all came to say one thing - President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is not alone. Nicasio Mendez, who is 69, says he's been waiting for a president like Lopez Obrador his whole life.

NICASIO MENDEZ: (Speaking Spanish).

PERALTA: "In primary school," he says, "our schoolteacher said Mexico was a very rich country."

MENDEZ: (Speaking Spanish).

PERALTA: "But I looked around," he says, "and asked, where is that wealth? And now, we are finally starting to see it." Lopez Obrador, he says, is cutting checks to elderly people and students. He is redistributing wealth in Mexico.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting in Spanish).

PERALTA: The president is a divisive figure in Mexico. He has hinted he might seek an unconstitutional second term, and his proposal to overhaul the electoral commission brought hundreds of thousands to the streets earlier this month. They accused the president of trying to stay in power. Protests this big haven't been seen in years, and they're a symptom of a polarized Mexican population. The split was evident at this march. They decried the economic gap in Mexico and reclaimed the racial slurs hurled at the president. Eugenia Mendoza's placard read, we indios pata rajadas - we Indians with cracked feet - are citizens, too.

EUGENIA MENDOZA: (Through interpreter) We deserve respect because we're the majority, and we're tired of having been exploited for years, for centuries.

PERALTA: She says Lopez Obrador is flawed, and she doesn't want him to run for a second term. What he has done is to challenge white privilege in Mexico, and for that, she says, she is willing to take to the streets.

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PERALTA: The president himself walked the length of the march amongst the people. Eyder Peralta, NPR News, Mexico City. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Eyder Peralta
Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.