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Oaxaca Protesters Hijack Buses

Shots are fired at the masked demonstrators. Senators reportedly put off a fact-finding visit.

October 12, 2006|From Reuters

OAXACA, Mexico — Masked protesters hijacked buses and forced government workers from offices Wednesday, despite a tentative agreement this week to curb their actions while a federal Senate commission studies whether Oaxaca state Gov. Ulises Ruiz has lost control.

The group of about 100 demonstrators was shot at as it roamed Oaxaca city, the capital, in the hijacked public buses, and protest leaders said one demonstrator was wounded.

News reports said a group of senators who planned to visit the city on a fact-finding mission had called off the trip.

"I hope the senators that visit us in Oaxaca see that things are out of control," said a protester who refused to give his name. He displayed several bullet casings he had picked up in the street.

Striking teachers and leftist activists occupied much of the colonial city nearly five months ago, storming the state Congress and blocking hundreds of streets in an effort to oust Ruiz.

Activists on Wednesday reinforced some roadblocks and threatened to shut the highway to Mexico City.

The protesters accuse Ruiz of stealing an election, using police violence to break up protests and ignoring widespread poverty. He belongs to a traditional wing of the Institutional Revolutionary Party.

If senators decide Oaxaca's government has lost authority, it could lead to Ruiz's ouster.

Several government offices in Oaxaca had reopened in recent days and protest graffiti was painted over.

"They were wiping away our slogans, so we came out to prove that this city is ungovernable right now," teacher Ruben Villavicencio said, clutching a can of spray paint. Police have not entered the city center since being beaten back when they tried to break the strike in its early days.

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