A standoff between Mexico's ruling party and leftists in Michoacan state heightened Tuesday as two gubernatorial candidates took the oath of office--one in an official ceremony, the other in a symbolic act before 16,000 supporters.
Eduardo Villasenor of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party was inaugurated in a theater on the outskirts of Morelia, the capital of this Pacific coast state, 150 miles west of Mexico City.
President Carlos Salinas de Gortari attended the event, guarded by hundreds of uniformed and plainclothes police. The swearing-in had to be moved because of opposition forces camped outside the state capitol.
There, in Morelia's leafy main square, opposition supporters chanted "Cristobal, governor!" as Cristobal Arias of the leftist Democratic Revolutionary Party took a symbolic oath.
Villasenor's victory in the July 12 election was vital to the ruling party because Michoacan is an opposition hotbed, home to former Gov. Cuauhtemoc Cardenas, son of modern Mexico's most popular president, Lazaro Cardenas.
While the left's charges of fraud are typical of such elections, it has mounted an unusually large challenge to Villasenor, a wealthy pig farmer. More than a month of almost daily protests have heightened tensions.
"There's a lot of fear about what's going to happen,' said taxi driver Miguel Velazquez.
Salinas, who has been busy lobbying for the proposed free trade agreement with the United States and Canada, has been urged by aides to intervene personally before major violence occurs.
Officials from both parties have hinted negotiations are under way.
The Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) has held power since 1929, winning virtually all national and state elections.