Anti-Bush protests rock Mexico

At least 22 were arrested and several injured in protests March 13 against the visit of President George Bush in the southern Mexican city of Merida, Yucatan. Hundreds also marched to the US Embassy in Mexico City, battling riot police with concrete blocks, metal bars and fire-crackers and tearing down barricades. Police responded with tear gas, pepper spray, and baton charges, throwing back rocks and clubbing demonstrators down. (El Universal, La Jornada, March 14)

See our last posts on Mexico, Yucatan and Bush’s Latin America tour.

  1. Further details
    For the last leg of his Latin American tour, US president George W. Bush flew to Merida, capital of the eastern Mexican state of Yucatan, on March 12, and spent the next day in meetings and a sightseeing excursion with Mexican president Felipe Calderon Hinojosa. Accompanied by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez and attorney general Alberto Gonzales, Bush had to defend US immigration and drug enforcement policies; he admitted that the US had “a lot to do” to cut down its demand for drugs; he acknowledged that the demand for drugs is responsible for drug trafficking in Latin American countries.

    Following two meetings and a lunch, the two presidents visited the Mayan ruins of Uxmal, about 80 km south of Merida. US and Mexican security forces sealed the area so tightly that a number of Mexican and US officials were unable to get in. Four protesters stood on the highway and shouted: “Damned invaders, respect Mexico’s sovereignty.” Mexican agents quickly removed them. Local residents were unable to get to their homes, and tourists were barred from the ruins. A group of US tourists asked reporters what was going on. “It’s because your president’s coming,” the reporters answered. “He is not my president,” a man from California snapped.

    As many as 200 protesters demonstrated in Merida’s Historic Center the evening of Mar. 13. A group of youths overturned metal police barricades and threw dirt, rocks, paint and a powder that appeared to be a mixture of chile and ground glass. A police agent was injured and had to be helped by other agents. A reporter from the W Radio chain, Edith Gomez, was hit in the chest by a piece of concrete thrown back by the police; she was treated in a nearby hospital. When agents from the Federal Preventive Police (PFP) attempted to surround the protesters, a small group of youths began smashing windows and public phones and defacing buildings. At this, some 400 police moved in and arrested at least 22 protesters. Some demonstrators said the damage was done by provocateurs and that many of those arrested had been peaceful. “Only a few put up resistance,” one youth said. “[The police] carried off everyone they saw with long hair, with earrings or dressed in black.”

    Violence also broke out in Mexico City at an anti-Bush protest called by a number of organizations, including the National Workers Union (UNT) and the Continental Social Alliance. Hundreds of students, unionists and others marched peacefully from the Hemiciclo a Juarez to the US embassy, where some protesters threw rocks at police and tried to scale the barriers. The organizers tried to call for calm, but someone disconnected the cables from the sound system. Riot police used tear gas and pepper spray on the crowd, causing a stampede in which three people were injured; 11 agents were beaten, and three protesters were arrested. The organizers said the demonstration “got out of control” and that some elements “stole the march.” (La Jornada, March 14)

    From Weekly News Update on the Americas, March 18