10-31-2006, 06:23 PM
Oaxaca Riots Continue - An Example Of Effective Protest
Quote:Mexico riot police clash with protesters in Oaxaca
01 November 2006
OAXACA: Leftist protesters have clashed with riot police in Mexico's colonial city of Oaxaca, a day after the federal government seized control of the popular tourist spot to end months of violence.
Thousands of demonstrators converged on Oaxaca's central Zocalo square, where federal police wearing body armour stood shoulder to shoulder.
At one entrance to the square, activists lobbed rocks and firecrackers at police, who responded with volleys of tear gas as helicopters circled low overhead and smoke from burning tires filled the streets.
Trying to end the crisis, lawmakers asked Oaxaca's state governor, Ulises Ruiz, to stand down, but he refused.
Ruiz's ouster is the central demand of striking teachers, leftist activists and Indian groups who have crippled the city with barricades and protests since May.
More than a dozen people have been killed in the crisis, most of them protesters. Ruiz's critics accuse him of corruption and using hired thugs to crush dissent.
Unable to enter the Zocalo, protesters hijacked vehicles to block rubble-strewn side streets and threatened to set up a new camp in an nearby church square. As night fell small groups were still taunting the police.
"This will carry on," said Luis Gonzalez, 30, close to a police line. "The solution is that this bastard Ruiz leaves."
Thousands of federal riot police swept into Oaxaca over the weekend, broke up burning barricades and took control of the city centre on Sunday. At least one protester was killed in the clashes.
Mexican President Vicente Fox resisted pressure to send federal forces in sooner but changed his mind after at least three people, including a US journalist, were shot dead on Friday, apparently by local police in civilian clothes.
On Monday, the United Nations called on Mexico to prosecute those responsible for the killings and to look for a negotiated solution to the conflict. The United States elevated a warning urging its citizens not to visit the town.
Fox's government said the police would stay in Oaxaca until order is fully restored.
Although Ruiz had repeatedly asked for federal forces to step in, the latest violence increased the pressure on him.
On Monday, his position weakened further when Congress called on him to step down and lawmakers from Ruiz's Institutional Revolutionary Party dropped support for him.
At the governor's mansion, Ruiz reiterated he would not resign and predicted he would soon regain control of the city.
"Within the next few hours we expect life will return to normal in the state capital," he told reporters.
The demonstrations began with a teachers strike in May and escalated after police tried to break up a protest in June.
Although local issues caused the crisis, the unrest has raised concerns it could spark unrest elsewhere in Mexico.
Zapatista guerrillas called for a day of roadblocks across Mexico on November 1 in support of the protesters and threatened to stop traffic on highways in the southern state of Chiapas, where they launched a brief but bloody rebellion in 1994.
On Sunday and Monday, riot police were sent to reopen main avenues blocked by protesters opposed to Ruiz in Mexico City.
Fox has vowed to end the crisis before President-elect Felipe Calderon takes over on December 1.
Oaxaca is best known for its architecture, indigenous crafts and nearby archeological ruins, but the centre has been badly scarred in the past five months, scaring away tourists.
Graffiti covers almost every wall, charred garbage and rubble litter the streets and many shops and cafes have shut.
Some residents welcomed the arrival of the federal police, cheering and waving white flags from doorways. One group held up a banner thanking police for lifting the city blockade.
Oaxaca city is one of Mexico's cultural treasures but is surrounded by rural areas of crushing poverty. Those tensions reflect a broader divide in Mexico that was highlighted in a bitter presidential election this year.
Now these guys know how to stage an effective protest.
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