Monday, January 8, 2007

November 14, 2006: In Mexican city of Oaxaca, classes briefly resume at university wracked by protests

Students briefly returned to classes at a public university overrun by protesters but lessons were soon suspended after shouting matches between students in favor and those against a leftist movement in the southern Mexican City

Leftist protesters set up their headquarters at Oaxaca's Autonomous Benito Juarez University early this month after police drove them out of the city's main plaza, which they had occupied for months in a bid to force Oaxaca's state governor to resign.

Some students complained Monday they were intimidated by masked protesters who shouted "traitors" at those going into classrooms.

"In truth, the people wearing masks scare me. I'm better off going home," said Bertha Orozco.

Leftist protesters also say they fear for their safety after almost daily shootings at them by pro-government armed groups driving by the university in cars and trucks.

A student protester was shot in the neck earlier this month and remains hospitalized.

University spokesman Carlos Pazaran said there would be no further classes until security conditions were guaranteed.

At least nine people have died since August in the unrest, which has rattled the outgoing administration of President Vicente Fox.

Earlier this month, 30 people were injured during clashes between federal police and protesters after the officers tried to remove barricades on a street near the university.

Rector Francisco Martinez and Mexican Interior Secretary Carlos Abascal vowed Monday to guarantee the safety of the school's 36,000 students, although Martinez made clear federal police would not be allowed on campus. Federal police are not allowed to enter under a law designed to protect academic freedom.

The Oaxaca protests began in May with a strike by teachers looking for better pay and turned into a campaign for the resignation of Gov. Ulises Ruiz after police under his command violently broke up a demonstration.

Leftists, Indian groups and students have joined in, as protesters accuse Ruiz of rigging the 2004 election to win office and sending groups of armed thugs to kill and intimidate his opponents.

Also Monday, parents and teachers opened additional public primary and high school classrooms, joining dozens of schools that have reopened despite the ongoing teachers strike.

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