Mexico's Calderon says election campaign is 'war'

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MEXICO CITY, Mar 12 (Reuters) The presidential candidate for Mexico's ruling conservative party described this year's election as a war to stop the country from returning to its corrupt, debt-laden past.

Felipe Calderon yesterday told candidates for Congress from his National Action Party, or PAN, to prepare for a tough fight.

''This is an order. We are going to win towns and win states. This is a war. We either push forward with change or we return to scenarios from the past,'' online newspapers quoted Calderon as saying in a speech.

He said the main opposition Institutional Revolutionary Party, which ruled for 71 years until Vicente Fox's victory in 2000, would take Mexico back to corrupt government and authoritarianism.

Calderon said left-wing front-runner Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador represented a return to overspending and deep debt.

Mexicans will also choose federal deputies and senators when they vote for president on July 2. Most opinion polls put Calderon in second place, behind Lopez Obrador, in the presidential race.

Fox's PAN complained to electoral authorities on Friday that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez was helping Lopez Obrador's campaign. The left strongly denied that.

Reuters OM VP0455

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