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Thousands of police invade Oaxaca, protests continue

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November 1, 2006

Thousands of police invade Oaxaca, protests continue

by Hillary Bain Lindsay

Thousands of riot police invaded Oaxaca on October 30 in order to crush an opposition movement that has held control of the southern Mexican state for several months.

On May 22, protesters began occupying the centre of the city after a list of teachers' demands -- including better pay and a series of measures to help poorer pupils -- went unanswered. The crisis escalated on June 14 when 750 police officers tried to remove the protesters, reportedly killing four.

In response to the police raid, the umbrella group, known as the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca (APPO), was formed to support the teachers' movement. The APPO is made up of 365 grassroots organizations and is demanding the resignation of Governor Ruiz, whom they accuse of corruption and repressive tactics against dissenters.

Over the past several weeks, protesters have set up barricades, occupied public buildings and taken control of a dozen radio stations. Several marches have taken place including one numbering 900,000, according to organizers.

On October 27, at least three protesters were killed by those linked to the state government, including one American independent media activist Brad Will. These deaths were seized on by President Fox as a pretext for the police assault against the popular resistance.

Demonstrators have slowed police by erecting barricades, lying down in front of police vehicles and throwing sticks and stones at police contingents.

"The police can come and occupy with all their weapons and tanks. They can occupy one area, they can occupy one specific point, but they cannot control the city. They cannot take over our lives and our country," says Gustavo Esteva, founder of the Universidad de la Tierra in Oaxaca.

Reasons for anger in Oaxaca go beyond the corruption of Governor Ruez, to other factors including growing inequality, the siphoning of water resources from Indian communities to tourist industries and the collapse of corn prices.

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The Dominion is a monthly paper published by an incipient network of independent journalists in Canada. It aims to provide accurate, critical coverage that is accountable to its readers and the subjects it tackles. Taking its name from Canada's official status as both a colony and a colonial force, the Dominion examines politics, culture and daily life with a view to understanding the exercise of power.

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