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LEFTIST CANDIDATE CLAIMS HE IS TRUE GOVERNOR OF CHIAPAS

SHARE LEFTIST CANDIDATE CLAIMS HE IS TRUE GOVERNOR OF CHIAPAS

As Mexico's president hugged the newly sworn-in governor of the impoverished state of Chiapas, thousands of Indian and peasant protesters held another "inauguration" for their own candidate.

Amado Avendano Figueroa of the leftist Democratic Revolutionary Party says he is the true representative of Chiapas but was robbed of victory through vote fraud and ballot stuffing by the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI)."There will be two governments in Chiapas," Avendano said in an interview before his "inauguration" Thursday in a colorful Mayan ceremony before 6,000 supporters.

Indian elders sang and danced under clouds of fragrant incense smoke. They handed Avendano the symbol of authority in many Mayan communities - the "bastion de mando," a long wooden stick decorated with streams of multi-colored ribbons.

Avendano called for a "totally new Chiapas" and a new constituent assembly made up of members from Indian villages. The crowd responded with chants of: "The people voted, Amado won!"

But official figures gave PRI candidate Eduardo Robledo Rincon 51 percent of the vote in the Aug. 21 election. Robledo took the oath of office Thursday in the state capital of Tuxtla Gutierrez, despite the protests and threats of a new uprising by Indian rebels.

The continuing unrest is the first crisis for new President Ernesto Zedillo's week-old government. The new president, who gave Robledo a bear hug after the ceremony, said his attendance was designed to promote peace in Chiapas.

"I come here to express my firm belief that we must and shall achieve peace and justice through dialogue, through negotiation," he said in a speech after the inauguration.

Robledo repeated an offer to resign immediately if guerrillas of the Zapatista National Liberation Army - who launched the New Year's Day rebellion - disarm. At least 145 people were killed in fighting with the army before the government called a cease-fire on Jan. 12.

The Zapatistas had said Rincon's inauguration would void an 11-month cease-fire, but there were no immediate reports of violence.

Avendano, who finished second with 34 percent, prepared Thursday to set up his parallel government in the City Theater, with Zapatista support.