Unlikely politician tries comeback in Mexico

AP News
Posted: Nov 28, 2009 1:09 PM

A street vendor-turned-politician has thrown Mexico City's most populous district into political chaos by trying to reclaim the post of borough chief he won as a stand-in candidate in July elections.

Rafael Acosta _ better known for his nickname "Juanito" and his Rambo-style headband _ camped out in the parking lot of the Iztapalapa borough headquarters Saturday and said he would retake the post as the area's president he gave up immediately after he was inaugurated.

"I am the borough president, and starting Sunday, we're going back to work," the Acosta told The Associated Press by telephone. He told a local radio station, Formato 21, that he would wait for acting borough president Clara Brugada to show up so he could ask her to leave the post.

Acosta has become a major headache for the leftists who govern Mexico City, a colorful symbol of the disarray caused by feuding within the Democratic Revolution Party that nearly won the nation's presidency in 2006 behind Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

He also threatens the party's control over one of its bastions, a low-income borough bigger than Phoenix or Philadelphia.

When party rivals convinced an electoral court to disqualify Brugada as a candidate, Lopez Obrador's candidate for borough chief, he urged his followers to vote for Acosta, an obscure, minor party candidate who had been a regular participant in street demonstrations backing Lopez Obrador.

Acosta promised to resign in favor of Brugada once elected. And Lopez Obrador's backers then swept him to victory.

After the election, Acosta began haggling with Brugada for a lucrative share of the jobs and budget that the borough president controls in the district of more than 1.8 million residents.

Rivals of Lopez Obrador urged Acosta to serve, pointing out that he _ not Brugada _ had won the election. The long-impoverished street vendor was showered with heady media coverage. Acosta began referring to himself as "the most famous person in the world" and spoke of running for president.

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But he finally agreed to step aside for 59 days to cope with supposed health problems. Brugada's allies considered the issue solved. And it seemed to be until Acosta and a group of friends marched into the borough headquarters late Friday in preparation for the end of the 59-day hiatus.

"We have received threats ... but on Sunday we will be back," he vowed.

He has become a symbol for many Mexicans of the little guy caught up in a powerful game. In his day job, Acosta sells everything from ice cream to Christmas decorations from metal-frame-and-plastic-tarp street stalls. He has regaled reporters with tales of his days working as a waiter, wrestler and even actor in a B movie about flirty waitresses at a bar of ill repute.

(This version CORRECTS that presidential election in 2006 sted 2008).)