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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Protesters, police clash in Oaxaca

OAXACA, Mexico - Masked protesters armed with sticks, rocks and homemade gasoline bombs clashed with police and raided a downtown hotel Monday during a march by leftists seeking the governor's resignation.

The protesters began attacking police as they marched to the city's main central plaza, prompting the officers to fire back with tear gas and pepper spray.

There were no immediate reports of injuries from the clashes.

The demonstrators were then seen taking vehicles away from motorists in the center of town, including a passenger bus, which they later set on fire. They also raided a hotel, breaking the windows and spraying graffiti on its walls.

The Camino Real hotel closed its doors shortly thereafter. In September, about 300 demonstrators armed with machetes, knives and pipes descended on the same hotel searching for Gov. Ulises Ruiz, whom they accuse of rigging the 2004 election to win office and violently repressing dissent.

Protest leader Cesar Mateos said police detained some of the demonstrators Monday, but couldn't say how many. Police did not release any information on the detentions.

In Mexico's southernmost state of Chiapas, meanwhile, thousands of Indian sympathizers blocked highways throughout the state in support of the Oaxacan protesters.

Last month, Fox sent more than 4,000 federal police in an attempt to end a five-month siege of the city, once one of Mexico's top tourist destinations. The protests have led to at least nine deaths, mostly of leftists who have been shot dead by gangs of gunmen.
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