Wednesday, November 15, 2006

August 28, 2006: Oaxaca protesters suggest attack on Mexico City embassies if talks fail

Striking teachers and leftist sympathizers said Sunday they might try to seize foreign embassies in Mexico City if federally mediated negotiations fail to make substantial progress toward ending months of unrest and violence in this colonial city.

The teachers union has led an increasingly chaotic three-month strike that has paralyzed the state capital but which until now has been limited to the impoverished state in southern Mexico.

On Sunday, the union issued a declaration that if talks fail, "it is necessary to carry out actions in Mexico City such as the taking of embassies, pressuring the interior ministry and the Senate."

Rosendo Ramirez, general secretary of a university workers union, said such actions "will allow the Oaxaca movement to overcome its obstacles and become a national movement."

But a top teachers' union leader, Enrique Rueda, was less emphatic, saying only that his colleagues agreed "not to rule out at this time" the seizure of embassies. He did not indicate which might be targeted.

At least 40,000 teachers occupied the leafy central plaza in Oaxaca city in May, demanding pay raises. After state Gov. Ulises Ruiz sent police to evict the strikers, thousands of leftists, anarchists and students joined the protest burning city buses, seizing radio and television stations, erecting hundreds of street barricades and covering buildings with graffiti.

Protesters are now demanding Ruiz's ouster, and two people have been killed and dozens more injured.

President Vicente Fox's top Cabinet member, Interior Secretary Carlos Abascal, said last week that federal officials in Mexico City would mediate negotiations to end the standoff.

Union leaders and a citizen's assembly created to oversee the strike have agreed to talks, but only if Abascal participates and Ruiz is not present. The protesters plan to send negotiators to the capital, 220 miles (350 kilometers) northwest of Oaxaca, though Abascal has yet to announce when talks might begin.

Rueda did not say what the protesters might consider positive results.

"If the interior secretary had acted months ago in a real and formal way, the conflict in Oaxaca would have been resolved," Rueda said.

Fox's government sent two sets of envoys to Oaxaca in recent months, but negotiations stalled after protesters declined to give up their insistence that Ruiz resign something they say they will continue to demand in the Mexico City talks.

Oaxaca is normally one of Mexico's top tourist destinations, but thousands of would-be visitors have shied away since the protests began.

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