November 6, 2006
MEXICO CITY: A coalition of five leftist guerrilla groups that support protesters in the southern state of Oaxaca claimed responsibility for homemade bombs that exploded at Mexico's top electoral court, a bank and the headquarters of the political party that governs Oaxaca.
The bombings across Mexico City early Monday caused no injuries but rattled nerves in a country wracked by protests since the polarizing July 2 presidential elections. President Vicente Fox called the attacks "criminal acts aimed at frightening the population."
Leftist protesters have battled federal police for control of Oaxaca City since last week, and the guerrilla groups pledged to continue "military" actions until Oaxaca state Gov. Ulises Ruiz steps down. Protesters accuse Ruiz, of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, of rigging the elections that brought him to power in 2004 and oppressing dissent, but have so far failed in their attempts to oust him.
"We take full responsibility for these actions," the groups said in a statement e-mailed to the news media. "Our political-military action is a response to our determination to reply with revolutionary violence to the violence unleashed by the lords of power and money."
The five groups are known to Mexican authorities and have claimed responsibility for bombings in the past, said Jose Luis Manjarrez, spokesman for Mexico's Attorney General's Office. But he said there is "nothing at this point to be able to confirm the veracity of the statement."
The groups identified themselves as the Lucio Cabanas Barrientos Revolutionary Movement, the Democratic Revolutionary Tendency-People's Army, the Insurgent Organization-May 1, the Dec. 2 Execution Brigade, and the Popular Liberation Brigades.
The rebels said they would continue such actions as long as "repressive federal and local forces continue to repress the people," an apparent reference to the federal police raid of Oaxaca a week ago that pushed the protesters out of the city's main central plaza, which they had occupied since May.
About a dozen rebels claiming to represent the five groups appeared in a rural area of Oaxaca state in late August wearing masks, military-style uniforms and carrying assault rifles. At the time they distributed leaflets supporting the cause of the Oaxaca protesters, local media reported.
Authorities and political parties condemned Monday's bombings, with some saying they were probably carried out by groups trying to destabilize the government before President-elect Felipe Calderon's swearing-in on Dec. 1. Calderon is a member of Fox's National Action Party.
"No one, absolutely no one, has the right to put in danger the life and safety of anyone else for political or ideological reasons," Calderon told a news conference Monday evening. "The ability of Mexicans to conduct the life of the country in peace and harmony is being tested."
Security was intensified in Mexico City's public transportation system, the presidential residence, federal government offices and U.S. and British embassies.
The explosions shortly after midnight damaged an auditorium at the headquarters of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, a branch of Canadian-owned Scotiabank, the Federal Electoral Tribunal, and businesses and residences near the court. Police deactivated two other bombs, one at a second Scotiabank and another outside a Sanborns restaurant, a chain owned by billionaire Carlos Slim, near the PRI headquarters, said Mexico City Public Safety Secretary Joel Ortega.
Authorities said the deactivated bomb at the Scotiabank was inside a box labeled "Bomb-Danger." It was made with a digital watch, a battery and ammonium nitrate and fuel oil.
Ortega said emergency officials received an anonymous call warning that bombs were about to be detonated.
The explosions came a day after more than 20,000 people marched in the southern city of Oaxaca to demand the withdrawal of federal police who were sent in on Oct. 29 to end violence linked to a five-month protest against Ruiz.
Protest leader Flavio Sosa said his movement was not responsible for Monday's blasts.
"We don't condemn anything, but we also don't have anything to do with these acts," Sosa said.
The PRI, which ruled Mexico for 71 years before Fox's 2000 triumph, backed the electoral tribunal when it confirmed Calderon's victory by less than 1 percentage point over leftist Democratic Revolution Party candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.
Lopez Obrador cried fraud and launched a massive protest that clogged the capital for more than a month to demand a recount, which the court refused to order.