Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador

Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, then a presidential candidate for the Democratic Revolution Party, speaks during a news conference in Mexico City. (Dario Lopez-Mills / Associated Press / July 3, 2012)

MEXICO CITY -- Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, Mexico’s fiery leftist leader, suffered a heart attack early Tuesday and was hospitalized in stable condition, doctors said.

Lopez Obrador, a two-time presidential contender, former mayor of Mexico City and an increasingly contentious figure in Mexico’s political scene, was “progressing satisfactorily,” Dr. Patricio Ortiz, a cardiologist, said in a brief news conference at the Medica Sur hospital. He will remain hospitalized for two to five days for recovery, Ortiz said.

Just two days earlier, Lopez Obrador led a huge rally in Mexico City’s Zocalo, the historic downtown square, to protest government plans to open up the oil and gas industry to private and foreign investment. He has called it the “robbery of all ages” of Mexican natural resources.

His son, Andres Manuel Lopez Beltran, thanked supporters for their well wishes but quickly urged followers to proceed with plans to surround the Senate building when legislators debate the energy plans.

“Our leader cannot be with us, but the best thing we can show him is to go to this [protest] and not give up on the fight that he is leading us in,” Lopez Beltran said.

Lopez Obrador, 60, whose influence had been fading and who now heads what is a splinter leftist political party, has more recently begun to unite much of Mexico’s fractious left in this particular cause, that of stopping President Enrique Peña Nieto’s constitutional reforms that would end the Mexican government's monopoly hold on oil exploration.

Business leaders and industry experts say such changes are necessary to improve flagging oil production in Mexico. But other Mexicans see control over oil as a matter of national sovereignty, while not trusting the government to oversee a potentially lucrative overhaul.

Lopez Obrador ran against Peña Nieto in last year’s presidential race, coming in second by about 5 or 6 percentage points. In 2006, he lost to Felipe Calderon by the tiniest of margins. Neither he nor his supporters did accept defeat and managed to shut down Mexico City with sit-ins and marches for months.

“Mexico needs him,” said Fernando Mayans Canabal, a leftist senator from Lopez Obrador’s native Tabasco state.

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