Leftist Group Backs Oaxaca Protesters

The Associated Press
Friday, November 3, 2006; 11:13 PM

OAXACA, Mexico -- Protesters demanding the governor's resignation in troubled Oaxaca state received fresh support Friday from the country's largest leftist group, a day after forcing federal police from one of their strongholds during violent clashes.

The Democratic Revolution Party said it would join the protesters in a demonstration planned for Sunday.

The party previously kept its distance from the Oaxaca protest movement _ a coalition of leftist and anarchist protesters that seized the capital city for five months until being removed by police in a Sunday raid.

The protesters are calling for the resignation of Gov. Ulises Ruiz, who is accused of rigging a 2004 election to win office and organizing bands of thugs to attack dissidents. Ruiz said Friday he will not resign.

The country's top police official, Public Safety Secretary Eduardo Medina, said he expected life to be back to normal in Oaxaca City by the end of the month, despite ongoing fierce clashes in the city's streets.

Federal police have said they are seeking to clear street barricades so that traffic can return to normal, and that they have no plans to storm the university, where the protesters have set up one of their headquarters and are broadcasting messages from its radio station.

On Thursday, the demonstrators lobbed firecrackers, gasoline bombs and rocks at police who had surrounded Oaxaca's state university, driving them away.

Dozens of masked youths patrolled the barricades re-established Friday outside the university, some carrying long plastic or metal tubes used to launch powerful fireworks against police.

At least nine people have died in the conflict, mostly protesters shot by police or armed gangs. Among the victims was activist-journalist Bradley Roland Will, 36, of New York, who was shot in the stomach while filming a gunbattle last Friday.

The state prosecutor's office said Wednesday that two people were in custody in connection with Will's death. Mayor Manuel Martinez of Santa Lucia del Camino, where Will was killed, said the suspects are officials of the municipality, on the outskirts of Oaxaca City.

© 2006 The Associated Press