Fox seeks to end Mexican unrest


Oct 28, 2006

Leftist protesters clashed with unidentified gunmen on Friday

Mexican President Vincente Fox has ordered security forces to quell violence in Oaxaca in the south.

Three people, including a US journalist, were killed in clashes between masked gunmen and leftist protesters on Friday.

At least six people have been killed since the unrest began in May when striking teachers and left-wing groups occupied the town centre.

Protesters accuse state Governor Ulises Ruiz of abuse of power.

They say they will not back down until he is ousted.

Gunfire erupted when armed men tried to remove a blockade set up by protesters, the Associated Press news agency quoted a police official as saying.

Both sides fired but it was not clear who shot first, he said.

The Oaxaca People's Popular Assembly, which is leading the protests, accused off-duty local policemen of carrying out the shootings.

The dead journalist has been named as Will Bradley Roland, a cameraman working with the independent news group Indymedia.

'No peaceful way out'

Mr Fox's office said in a statement that federal police would arrive in the southern city during Saturday. It was not clear how many were being sent.

The president had previously avoided sending forces to the region for fear of involving them in the violent confrontations.

Thousands of schools have been closed since the strike began in May, leaving 1.3 million children out of school.

The teachers staged the walk-out, demanding higher pay and better working conditions.

After police attacked one of their demonstrations in June, they extended their demands to include a call for the resignation of Gov Ruiz. The teachers were joined in their protest by left-wing groups.

This week, striking teachers voted to return to classes but many protesters say they will not back down until Gov Ruiz is removed from office.

Critics accuse him of corruption and repressive tactics against dissenters, whose roadblocks have driven tourism from the city and hurt business.

Last week, Mexico's Senate decided by a 74-31 vote that the state government had not ceased to function, a condition necessary to remove a governor from office.

But the Senate recognised that conditions of "ungovernability" existed in the state and criticised Mr Ruiz for failing to bring months of violent protests to an end.

President Vicente Fox has vowed to end the conflict before he leaves office on 1 December but negotiations to find a peaceful way out have so far failed.