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Mexican President Sends Security Forces to Oaxaca


Mexico's President, Vincente Fox, has announced Saturday the deployment of federal troops to the southern city of Oaxaca after protests erupted into violence late Friday, killing one American and two Mexicans. VOA's Sean Maroney has more on the aftermath from Washington.

The deployment of Mexican troops to Oaxaca comes after gunmen killed American photojournalist Brad Will and two Mexicans. Will was shot in the chest while covering the event for the US news agency Indymedia.

Several others were also injured, including photographer Osvaldo Ramírez, of the daily paper Milenio. The gunfire erupted late Friday near street barricades where protestors were demanding pay raises for striking teachers and the resignation of Oaxaca Governor, Ulises Ruiz.

Reporters Without Borders, in its protest released Saturday condemned the killing saying the group is "horrified by this escalation of violence". The group also called for an end to the violence.

U.S. Consular Agent, Mark Leyes, works near the site where the violence took place. He told VOA that in the wake of the attacks, the atmosphere of the city is one of anticipation.

"The city is very quiet, calm -- but tense," Leyes says.

Oaxaca has been in a state of turmoil since teachers went on strike in May to demand better pay and more school funding. Critics of Governor Ruiz, including Oaxaca's Popular Assembly, or APPO, soon joined the fray. The ongoing violence has crippled the city's vital tourism sector. Mexico City Radio News Host and Political Analyst Ana Maria Salazar says Saturday's announcement to send a federal contingent is unusual for the Fox administration.

"This administration has been characterized to be very reluctant to use force. And that may have been in part the reason why they didn't want to get involved in the Oaxaca conflict must sooner," Salazar says.

Before Friday's violence, teachers had agreed to end their strike and allow students back into the classroom starting Monday. However, U.S. Consular Agent Leyes in Oaxaca says that even before Friday's deaths, Monday's target was unlikely.

"The return to classes on Monday I think was going to be pretty much in word only anyway because "Dead Week" starts Monday, and basically, the whole state essentially shuts down to celebrate their dead," Leyes says.

Leyes and Salazar both agree that Friday's violence may have postponed classes even more. It is still unclear how many troops are heading to Oaxaca and what exact role they will play once inside the city. However, President Fox has vowed to resolve the crisis before leaving office December 1.

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