Police fired tear gas to prevent hundreds of protesters from reaching the venue of an international Guelaguetza folk festival in Oaxaca July 16, in the worst outbreak of violence in the conflicted southern Mexican city since November. Protesters hurled rocks and burned vehicles as they marched towards the stadium where the festival is slated to open July 23.
Some protesters said they only wanted access to the stadium grounds at Cerro del Fortín to hold an alternative festival, “Guelaguetza Popular,” while others vowed to block the event entirely. The state government pledged to defend the stadium and hold the Guelaguetza festival, a weeklong celebration of indigenous music, artisan crafts and cuisine that dates back to the 1700’s and draws tens of thousands of tourists each year.
“About 200 people wearing masks and carrying sticks, stones and bottle rockets began to provoke the police,” the Oaxaca state government said in a statement. “The police repelled the attack using tear gas.” State public safety secretary Sergio Segreste said 30 people were arrested and 15 police injured, but offered no information on injuries to protesters.
The Mexican League for the Defense of Human Rights (LIMEDDH) accused police of “brutally beating” the protesters and roughing up several reporters. LIMEDDH reported 40 arrested, and protested that there was no record of 13 of the detained. Up to 50 were reported wounded, and six vehicles burned. (Nueva Espana, El Universal, July 18; Cronica de Hoy, July 17; AP, July 16)