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Police Detain 160 Uprising Leaders in Oaxaca, Tens of Thousands Protest Governor Ruiz

StoryNovember 27, 2006
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In the Mexican state of Oaxaca, the police have detained at least 160 members of APPO, the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca. On Saturday, tens of thousands of protesters marched in Oaxaca to call on the state’s governor, Ulises Ruiz, to resign. We go to Oaxaca to get a report. [includes rush transcript]

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We end our program in the southern state of Mexico, Oaxaca. Late last night, we got independent journalist John Gibler in Oaxaca. He filed this report.

JOHN GIBLER: Thousands of supporters of the Oaxaca Peoples’ Popular Assembly, or APPO, for Spanish initials, marched from the governor’s offices eight miles into Oaxaca City on Saturday. As they entered the city center, protesters formed a circle around the town square, which has been occupied by federal police since October 29. The APPO called for a 48-hour, quote, “peaceful siege,” end-quote, of the federal police encampment, maintaining a full block of distance between the protesters and the police barricade. Within less than an hour, however, police officers robbed a protester of a cooler filled with soda, and set off a series of confrontations that would lead to a five-hour battle, ending in gun fire, with hundreds of protesters and passersby wounded, and at least 150 imprisoned.

Enraged by the police having robbed one of their own in plain daylight, protesters hurled rocks and fired bottle rockets through plastic tubes at the police, slowly advancing toward their barricade on Alcala and Morelos streets in central Oaxaca City. As the APPO protesters drew close, police fired heavy amounts of tear gas, forcing the protesters to retreat one block back, and fogging most of the city center with thick clouds of gas. Protesters and federal police fought along Alcala for some two hours before the police began to advance, firing more tear gas and glass marbles through slingshots. By 8:00 p.m., protesters had been forced out of the city center. Many were captured and beaten along side streets by federal police. Once forced out of the center, uniformed and plainclothes state police officers surrounded and captured dozens of protesters, brutally beating them with batons and firing tear gas at close range. State and federal police also opened fire with handguns and assault rifles, wounding dozens. In unconfirmed reports, three people were shot and killed, and their bodies hauled off by police.

Throughout the night, plainclothes gunmen, like the paramilitaries who have killed with impunity for months in Oaxaca, entered hospitals throughout the city looking for wounded protesters. Witnesses said that the gunmen threatened hospital employees at gunpoint and removed several wounded people from hospitals. The director of Hospital General, Dr. Felipe Gama, acknowledged that gunmen entered his hospital and roamed the halls with pistols drawn, but he denied reports that they had removed patients.

Protesters, in turn, burned several government buildings and private businesses, and broke windows throughout the city center. APPO spokespeople later denounced these acts, but defended the people’s right to act in self-defense, using makeshift weapons such as Molotov cocktails, bottle rockets and slingshots.

On Sunday morning, state and federal police patrolled the city, controlling the Zocalo and Santo Domingo Cathedral, both sites of former protest encampments, while dozens, perhaps even hundreds, of protesters remained hidden in houses throughout the conflict area. The APPO has called to re-establish their protest camp at Santo Domingo on 8:00 a.m. Monday morning.

AMY GOODMAN: That was independent reporter John Gibler, reporting from Oaxaca, Mexico.

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