Mexican lawmakers court voters in U.S.

DALLAS (AP) – Lawmakers from Mexico’s governing party are trying to capture the interest of potential voters living in the United States by embarking on a tour through four American states.

Millions of voters living in the U.S. could help sway the 2006 Mexican presidential election, and the lawmakers are hoping to capitalize on that with the tour beginning in Texas Friday in Dallas and San Antonio.

“Those of us that live here maybe have more of a responsibility because we can see how a first-rate country works … very different from ours,” said Oscar Colmenero Morin, a Houston resident helping organizing one lawmaker’s visit there.

Mexico’s National Action Party faces a challenge to stay in power. Five years after a historic win of the presidency, voters have become disillusioned with President Vicente Fox, saying he failed to deliver on some of his campaign promises.

Legislators from the party will visit California, Illinois, Texas and New York in December, making themselves available to Mexican immigrants, organizations and Spanish media. Texas stops on the tour include McAllen, El Paso and Houston.

Friday in Dallas, delegates were expected to discuss conditions in Mexico and immigrants’ rights, said Jose Natera, a Fort Worth businessman from the Mexican state of Guanajuato who is coordinating one of the meetings.

Overall, some 11 million Mexicans live abroad, most in the United States. About 4 million are believed to be registered voters, government officials estimate.

Before, they had to travel to Mexico to vote. But Mexican lawmakers have approved the country’s first absentee ballot plan. Voters must send absentee ballot request forms by Jan. 15. Once registered, they can cast ballots at the closest consulate.

Electoral workers were dispatched to take absentee ballot registration forms to airports, land crossings and customs checkpoints along Mexico’s border with the United States. But many voters have complained about the lack of information on the new program and say registration is confusing.

“We have very few people registering from here in the U.S.,” said Colmenero.

The National Action Party won control of the presidency when Fox was elected in 2000, after seven decades of Mexico’s Institutional Revolutionary Party holding the post.

Former Mexico City mayor Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, a member of the leftist Democratic Revolution Party, currently has a slight lead other candidates in the polls.

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