In a Show of Force Mexican Federal Forces Remove Oaxacan Protesters from Oaxaca City centre

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

After five months of tense protests in the Oaxacan state capital, Oaxaca City, in Southern Mexico, Mexican president, Vicente Fox, ordered Federal forces to remove protesters and striking teachers from the city centre. On Sunday, Mexican police forces clothed in riot gear, armed with tear gas and assault rifles, and backed up by armoured vehicles took up positions on the edge of the city to begin their march into the city centre.

A male protester manning one barricade was killed as federal police stormed the city, Police did not immediately confirm that.

But it is still uncertain whether more than one million schoolchildren would return to classes Monday in the embattled city where riot police and burned-out vehicles still line the streets.

Oaxaca suffers from a stand-off between the state government of Oaxaca and the People's Popular Assembly of Oaxaca (APPO), a consortium of groups including teachers, farmers, and other workers. The impetus for federal involvement in Oaxaca appears to stem from the murder of four protesters and wounding of at least one other by state-sanctioned paramilitaries on Friday the 28th. Also potentially contributing to federal interdiction could be a desire, formed following the protests in Mexico City after the country's recent elections, to forge stronger ties between Vicente Fox's National Action Party (PAN) and the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).

The protests began in May as a teacher's strike. Police and state forces - often in plain-clothes - have shot at protesters, setting off clashes in which at least eight people have died.

It is still too early to tell when federal police will withdraw from Oaxaca City. Protesters have decided to abandon the centre and regroup at a local university. The protesters accuse Ruiz of corruption and rigging elections. Daniel Reyes a teacher, told reporters "We are going to leave this area . . . while we regroup and look at strategies to recover this area," leaving open the possibility of continued protests, extended federal occupation, and ongoing violence.