Mexico shootouts kill journalist


October 27, 2006

Wounded journalist on the streets of Oaxaca

OAXACA, Mexico (AP) -- Two shootouts left an American journalist dead and several other people injured Friday in this city where protesters have barricaded streets and occupied government buildings for five months in a bid to oust the governor.

The gunfire erupted in a rough Oaxaca neighborhood when armed men tried to remove a blockade set up by protesters who are demanding the resignation of Oaxaca Gov. Ulises Ruiz, said a police official who was not authorized to speak on the record. Both sides fired but it was not clear who shot first, he said.

Video taken at the scene shows people ducking for cover as shots rattle out from many directions.

The second shoot-out erupted between protesters and an armed group outside the state prosecutors office and left three people injured, the police official said.

Protesters have taken over the historic city since June, building barricades, driving out police and burning buses. The protesters accuse the governor of rigging the 2004 election to win office and using violence against his opponents.

Friday's clash came a day after teachers agreed to end their five-month-old strike that has kept 1.3 million children out of classes in the state of Oaxaca -- a move that was expected to take the sting out of the protests.

The teachers have been camped out in Oaxaca city's colonial center since May when they first walked out to demand 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 Ruiz and were joined by leftists, students and Indian groups.

Police and armed gangs have led sporadic attacks on the protesters, and at least five people have been killed in violence related to the unrest.

The lawlessness has led to armed groups of protesters and other residents patrolling the streets, frequently capturing and beating suspected criminals.

On Thursday, just over 31,000 teachers voted to end their walkout, union secretary Ezequiel Rosales said. More than 20,000 voted to continue the strike.

Union leaders said they planned to meet with Interior Secretary Carlos Abascal in Mexico City on Friday to hammer out conditions for their return to classes.

Rosales said the teachers would demand that the government guarantee the safety of returning teachers, who fear reprisals from Ruiz supporters. Union leaders also are seeking the release of four jailed protesters and the cancellation of outstanding arrest warrants against demonstrators.