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Mexico police surround Oaxaca university

OAXACA, Mexico (AP) — Federal police surrounded a university packed with leftist protesters Thursday in conflict-ridden Oaxaca, clearing barricades and firing tear gas as the activists showered them with gasoline bombs.

At least 20 protesters, 10 officers and three news photographers were injured in the clashes.

About 200 police in body armor and carrying riot shields advanced to the university gates and fought the protesters for more than six hours before they finally retreated.

Under Mexican law, the university rector must give the police permission to enter. Rector Francisco Martinez, speaking on the university radio station, called the operation an “attack” and demanded the police withdraw.

The federal police said they simply intend to “restore order and peace” on the streets and did not plan to storm the school.

Protesters with scarves covering their faces were seen running from the campus and lobbing gasoline bombs packed with nails, stones and firecrackers at police.

Officers hit back with water cannons and repeated rounds of tear gas, supported by helicopters and armored vehicles. Some officers also picked up rocks and bottles and hurled them back at protesters.

A free medical clinic near the university reported that more than 20 protesters had been treated for bruises, cuts and injuries related to tear gas.The 10 officers received various gas-fire burns and bruises, the federal police said in a statement.

Photographer David Jaramillo of the Mexican daily El Universal was hit in the arm by a bottle rocket loaded with nails, and was hospitalized in stable condition, the statement said. Another two photographers suffered minor injuries after being hit by stones or nails from bottle rockets.  ……………….

The university radio station reported that at least six demonstrators had been arrested and demanded their release. An unidentified commentator also said the protesters were furious after the attack and might blow up a gas station.

The university is a stronghold of the movement to oust Oaxaca Gov. Ulises Ruiz, who is accused of rigging the 2004 election to win office and organizing bands of thugs to attack dissidents. Protesters, including trade unionists, leftists and Indian groups, have been flocking to Oaxaca since May to press their demands, and took over the center of the state capital for more than five months.

Many retreated into the university campus Sunday after the government sent in thousands of federal police who swept into the city center, firing tear gas and tearing down camps and barricades.

Other activists still occupy a plaza several blocks away since police chased them out of the main central square, the Zocalo. And the university radio station is broadcasting messages supporting the protests and calling for federal police to leave Oaxaca.

At least nine people have died in the conflict, mostly protesters shot by police or armed gangs. Among the victims was activist-journalist Bradley Roland Will, 36, of New York, who was shot in the stomach while filming a gunbattle Friday.

The state prosecutor’s office said two people are in custody in connection with Will’s death. They were detained after residents identified them as the alleged shooters. Mayor Manuel Martinez of Santa Lucia del Camino on the outskirts of Oaxaca, where Will was killed, said the suspects are municipal officials.

The embassies of the U.S., Canada, Britain, France and Germany have warned their citizens to avoid traveling to the region.

The conflict has shattered tourism in the city, noted for its colonial architecture and ancient ruins. In outlying towns known for unique handmade crafts, the lack of income for artisans is being deeply felt.

Associated Press Writer Mark Stevenson contributed to this report.


November 3, 2006 - Posted by | articles

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