Mexico: Forces take control of Oaxaca City center

Barricading protesters and striking teachers pushed out of site where they have spent last 5 months.

October 30, 2006 10:03
2 minute read.
Mexico: Forces take control of Oaxaca City center

mexico riot 88. (photo credit: )

Federal forces pushed protesters and striking teachers out of Oaxaca's city center where they have spent the last five months, but it was still uncertain whether more than 1 million schoolchildren will return to classes Monday in the embattled city where riot police and burned-out vehicles still line the streets. The colonial city, a favorite of tourists, more closely resembled a battleground, with police controlling the main square and leftist supporters still roaming the streets with sticks and gasoline bombs. The protesters announced plans for new marches on Monday, and shuttered, graffiti-smeared storefronts, cafes and hotels showed few signs of anything resembling normality. The protests began in May as a teacher's strike in this colonial southern Mexican city of roughly 275,000. But the demonstrations quickly spiraled into chaos as anarchists, students and Indian groups seized the central plaza and barricaded streets throughout the city to demand Ruiz's ouster. The federal government's decision to send forces into Oaxaca came after teachers agreed to return to work by Monday, ending a strike that kept 1.3 million children out of classes across the southern state. It was unclear if police the presence would undermine that agreement. While some teachers planned to return, others said they would stay home. "We are not willing to go back (to work) until we get written guarantees" for teachers' safety, said Daniel Reyes, one of the last of the striking teachers to leave the main square as police gathered around it Sunday night. During the strike, some dissident teachers tried to open schools, and parents armed with sticks and pipes fought off protesters who tried to block the entrances to the schools that were able to open. Late Sunday, protesters decided to abandon the center and regroup at a local university. They pledged to continue their battle to get Gov. Ulises Ruiz to resign, even as police tore down the banners and tents that had served as their headquarters for months of often violent demonstrations. "We are going to leave this area ... while we regroup and look at strategies to recover this area," said Reyes, adding that the retreat was done to "protect the safety" of protesters and suggesting the movement might become more radical. While protesters did not appear to have thrown any of the gasoline bombs some carried, the potential for violence was still great. Ruiz - whom the protesters accuse of corruption and rigging elections - was scheduled to give his state-of-the-state address on Monday. An immediate return to normality seemed unlikely, after federal police backed by armored vehicles and water cannons tore down barricades and stormed the city, amid jeers and fierce street battles. A male protester manning one barricade was killed, and protesters broadcasting over a local radio station claimed a second body, apparently that of another protester, had been found, but gave few details. The second death could not be confirmed. Protest spokesman Roberto Garcia said 50 supporters had been arrested and police were searching houses, looking for protest leaders. Police did not immediately confirm that. President Vicente Fox, who leaves office Dec. 1, resisted repeated calls to send federal forces to Oaxaca until Saturday, a day after gunfire killed a US activist-journalist and two residents. Police and state forces - often in plainclothes - have shot at protesters, setting off clashes in which at least eight people have died. ___ On the Net: US journalist's video (Spanish site):

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