Gunfire in Oaxaca City

From El Universal, Sept. 25, via Chiapas95:

A group of gunmen exchanged fire with protesters outside Oaxaca’s Camino Real hotel on Sunday, injuring two and forcing dozens of guests, residents and journalists to run for cover.

The shoot-out came hours after the U.S. Embassy in Mexico renewed a warning for U.S. citizens traveling to the southern city, where protesters have camped out for months.

The confrontation broke out after about 300 demonstrators armed with machetes, knives and pipes descended on the Camino Real searching for Oaxaca Gov. Ulises Ruiz, who they are demanding resign. They accuse him of rigging the 2004 election to win office and violently repressing dissent.

Around 30 protesters entered the hotel and searched room by room for the governor. Ruiz later said he had been at a restaurant near the Camino Real but never went inside the hotel. A group of about 40 men armed with sticks and guns then attacked and fired at the protesters outside the hotel’s front door. Some protesters drew guns and returned fire, creating panic among dozens of people in the street.

Zenen Bravo, a spokesman for the Oaxaca People’s Assembly (APPO) which is coordinating the protests, said one demonstrator was shot in the elbow and another had been beaten with sticks. Bravo accused the governor of being behind the attack.

Ruiz denied that, condemning the violence.

“We cannot tolerate these acts of vandalism and aggression against Oaxacan citizens,” he said.

The situation remained tense as night fell, with about 300 protesters still blockading the hotel.

Hours earlier, the U.S. Embassy issued an advisory saying, “U.S. citizens traveling to Oaxaca City should consider carefully the risk of travel at this time due to the recent increase in violence there.”

See our last posts on Mexico and the struggle in Oaxaca.

  1. APPO threatens journalists?
    It really hurts to read this, because we generally support both IFEX and APPO. We’d like to hear APPO’s reply to this. From the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX) and its Latin American affiliate, Instituto Prensa y Sociedad (IPYS), Sept. 26:

    On the afternoon of 24 September 2006, members of the Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca (Asamblea Popular del Pueblo de Oaxaca, APPO) threatened Ricardo Rocha, journalist and director of the news agency Detrás de la Noticia (DDN), and stripped him of his work equipment. The incident took place when Rocha was interviewing several legislators in the lobby of the Hotel Camino Real in the state of Oaxaca, southern Mexico.

    Dozens of APPO members burst in, apparently believing that Oaxaca Governor Ulises Ruiz was one of the men being interviewed by the journalist. When they realized the governor was not there, they detained the journalist. They then took his cameras from him and assaulted him. This is one of several aggressive actions with which the APPO has been demanding the resignation of Governor Ruiz.

    For two months now, Oaxaca has been in the midst of a social conflict which has affected freedom of the press… Several journalists have been threatened by the APPO because of their work.

    IPYS believes that APPO members have infringed on freedoms of the press and of expression, using the restriction of these rights in order to pressure for their demands to be met.