Protesters block highways in Mexico City

Hundreds of mostly young protesters blocked traffic throughout Mexico City yesterday to demand the release of those arrested in the unrest at the village of San Salvador Atenco a week earlier. APRO reported more than 20 blockades throughout the Federal District. Tear gas was used in one instance, but police refrained from massive arrests, in an apparent bid to calm the situation. From Reuters, May 11:

Hundreds of demonstrators blocked highways leading into Mexico’s capital on Thursday to protest rights abuses by police against leftists in a rebellious nearby town and to demand the release of prisoners.

The protesters, many of them students, stopped long lines of traffic on several major highways leading into Mexico City in a protest backed by Subcomandante Marcos, the masked leader of Zapatista rebels in southern Mexico.

From El Universal, May 12:

Federal district riot police did use tear gas on one occasion when students tried to block the main freeway, the Periferico, near Cuicuilco in the south of the city. But the city’s Public Security Secretariat (SSP-DF) was clearly trying to avoid charges of brutality that have been leveled against State of Mexico and federal law enforcement bodies after the Atenco riots and ensuing arrest sweeps on May 3 and 4.

The protesters, too, seemed to seek the moral high ground, for the most part dispersing when ordered to do so. Most of the blockades petered out by noon. Nobody was arrested.

But Mexico City motorists had plenty to complain about for most of the morning, as the protesters, sometimes only about a dozen at one location, were able to force traffic detours and delays at 110 strategic locations.

Most of the trouble was in the eastern sector of the city.

An estimated 200 demonstrators, including members of the Francisco Villa Popular Front, one of the militant groups involved in the Atenco clash with state and federal police last week, blocked a major entrance into the city at the Mexico-Puebla highway. With federal police also on the scene, the demonstrators were dispersed by 11 a.m.

There were also short-lived blockages on the Calzada Zaragoza, where the highway to Texcoco begins, and at several intersections near the CCH-Oriente, one of many science and humanity branches of the National Autonomous University (UNAM). The trouble was mostly south of Metro San Juan and east of the Central de Abastos, the city’s main wholesale market.

In the southern part of the city, students and members of the National Indigenous Congress, as well as supporters of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation blocked the city’s biggest thoroughfare, Insurgentes Avenue, for about four hours in both directs at various points near the UNAM.

Protests in the northern part of the Federal District branched out from the CCH-Vallejo campus near the northern bus terminal and the CCH-Azcapotzalco campus near Metro Rosario…

Spokespersons for the demonstrators said their aim was the release of all those arrested after the Atenco riots. They got partial satisfaction Wednesday when the judge in charge of the cases, Jaime Maldonado Salazar, allowed bail, set at 14,000 pesos each, for 144 of the 172 people still under arrest.

However, no charges have been dropped since 17 were released Wednesday night for lack of evidence.

La Jornada reported May 12 that those still being held had entered their sixth day of hunger strike.

Authorities strategically opted for avoiding mass arrests, despite the threat one day earlier by Transportation Secretary Pedro Cerisola to have all those who block traffic prosecuted. (APRO, May 11) Another account of the protests from Narco News May 11:

Students from the National School of Anthropology and History (ENAH), of the School for Science and Humanities (CCH) South and the National Pedagogic University (UPN), among other adherents to the Other Campaign, were blocking the “Periferico Avenue” highway near the ENAH when they were attacked with pepper gas and clubs by members of the Mexico City police under the command of the an “AFP” officer, according to Other Journalism [Narco News] correspondent Erwin Slim Flores, who was on the scene.

At the moment, there is no known police force in Mexico that bears the initials “AFP.” However, the fact that it represents some new repressive state apparatus cannot be discounted.

Could it have been the AFI, the Federal Investigative Agency?

On May 12, despite rain, some 7,000 gathered at the presidential residence, Los Pinos, for a rally led by Subcommander Marcos demanding release of the detainees. (APRO, May 12)

The crisis has taken on an international dimension. President Vicente Fox, in Vienna for an UE-Latin America summit, was met with a small but loud group of protesters chanting “Assassin! Assassin!” (APRO, May 11) The mother of a young Chilean activist expelled from Mexico after her arrest in the Atenco protests is demanding that Chilean President Michel Bachelet formally investigate charges of sexual abuse by the police. (APRO, May 11)

All sources online at Chiapas95.

See our last post on the crisis in Mexico.