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Leftist protesters capture, beat policemen outside besieged Mexican City

Leftist protesters capture, beat policemen outside besieged Mexican City

A group of 60 leftists captured and beat three policemen just outside the city of Oaxaca, officials said Friday, the latest clash in a wave of political violence that has scared tourists away from the historic region.
The leftists, who are part of a statewide movement to oust Oaxaca Gov. Ulises Ruiz, captured the three officers in the village of Zaachila, 10 km (6 miles) outside Oaxaca city, state police said.
The protesters had mistakenly believed the officers were going to escort Ruiz on a visit to the village. Ruiz later issued a statement saying he had no plans to visit Zaachila.
The three policeman were punched and kicked and held for more than two hours before they were released, state police said.
The protests in Oaxaca started in May when teachers went on strike looking for higher wages, but soon mushroomed into a broad-based movement of leftists, trade unionists and Indian groups who accuse Ruiz of rigging the 2004 election to win office. About 2,000 protesters have occupied the center of Oaxaca, building barricades, taking over buildings and burning buses.
The inability of state forces to confront the protesters has caused Ruiz and local business groups to call for the army to intervene.
In recent days, helicopters and military planes have flown over the protesters while thousands of state police have gathered outside the city.
However, on Thursday Interior Secretary Carlos Abascal promised protest leaders that the government would not send in soldiers against them.
"We have the guarantee from the interior secretary that there will be no military incursion in Oaxaca," teachers union leader Enrique Rueda told a news conference Thursday night after four hours of meetings between the sides in Mexico City.
The Interior Department later released a statement saying "the conflict in Oaxaca will be solved via the law and institutions." It did not comment on the use of soldiers.
Also Thursday, a teacher belonging to a group that opposes the strike, Jaime Rene Calvo Aragon, was killed by two assailants who stabbed him in the neck with an ice pick, said Oaxaca state police official Victor Alonso Altamirano.
Fellow teacher Alma Rosa Fernandez accused militant leftists of killing Calvo. Fernandez, who also opposes the strike, said the dissident teachers have been receiving death threats.
"We blame this murder directly on the radical teachers wings," she said.
However, protest leaders have said their movement had no part in the killing.
Clashes involving protesters, police and armed gangs have already left two people dead, and both the U.S. and British embassies in Mexico have issued advisories warning their citizens about going to Oaxaca.
The unrest has scared most tourists away from the city, which is normally popular for its colonial architecture and ancient pyramids. Business leaders put losses at more than US$300 million (euro235 million).


Updated : 2021-08-01 01:55 GMT+08:00