Protesters Shove Their Way Into Congress Of Mexican Border State Of Nuevo Leon, Toss Smoke Bomb

FILE - Samuel Garcia, the then newly-elected governor of Nuevo Leon attends his victory celebration in Nuevo Leon, at the Macroplaza of Monterrey, in Nuevo Leon state, Mexico,  June 7, 2021. Protesters took over the floor of the Nuevo León state congress Wednesday, Nov. 29. 2023, after lawmakers named an interim governor to take the place of García, who took a leave of absence to pursue a run for the presidency in Mexico’s June 2 elections. (AP Photo/Roberto Martinez, File)
FILE - Samuel Garcia, the then newly-elected governor of Nuevo Leon attends his victory celebration in Nuevo Leon, at the Macroplaza of Monterrey, in Nuevo Leon state, Mexico, June 7, 2021. Protesters took over the floor of the Nuevo León state congress Wednesday, Nov. 29. 2023, after lawmakers named an interim governor to take the place of García, who took a leave of absence to pursue a run for the presidency in Mexico’s June 2 elections. (AP Photo/Roberto Martinez, File)

MEXICO CITY (AP) — The legislature of Mexico's northern border state of Nuevo Leon said Thursday protesters broke through doors, took over the floor of the state congress and launched a smoke bomb.

The chaotic scene took place late Wednesday after the state legislature named an interim governor to take the place of Gov. Samuel García, who took a leave of absence to pursue a run for the presidency in Mexico’s June 2 elections.

García wanted someone from his Citizen’s Movement party to replace him, but the legislature named someone else to serve for the six-month leave, and the protesters were angry about that.

Shouting “Sell outs! Sell Outs!” dozens of protesters broke open a door and flooded the floor of the legislature, after which thick smoke soon filled the chamber.

“Members of the public who were unhappy with the process carried out during the session broke into the floor to try to prevent it from being carried out,” the state congress said in a statement. “They attacked security personnel, advisers and even tossed a smoke bomb that filled the chamber.”

Nuevo Leon, across the border from Texas, is an important industrial hub. García hopes his youthful, social media-savvy campaign can attract younger voters, but critics say Mexican ruling parties have long promoted third-party candidates with little hope of winning, to divide the opposition vote.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador defended Garcia Thursday, saying other parties hated him because he threatens to split the opposition vote in the June election. López Obrador's Morena party holds a lead in polls on the race.

“There is a lot of rage, a lot of ill feeling, a lot of anger directed at Samuel,” López Obrador said at his morning press briefing.

García issued a statement claiming the state congress vote betrayed those who voted for him. He said the man who was named — current state assistant prosecutor Luis Enrique Orozco — was not qualified to hold the interim post.

“We are not going to tolerate vandalism, illegal and anti-democratic acts,” García said. “We are going to defend respect for the law, respect for institutions and the will of (the people) of Nuevo Leon.”

Since he took office in 2021, García has faced a severe water crisis that left much of Monterrey, the state capital, without service for weeks. He has also bragged about his friendship with Elon Musk, and has touted hopes that a Tesla plant will be built in his state.

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