Eight people are dead and more than 100 injured after police clashed with protesting teachers and their allies in Oaxaca yesterday morning.
Police were attempting to dislodge a blockade at Nochixtlán on the Oaxaca-Puebla highway when the violence erupted.
Federal Police Chief Enrique Galindo and Oaxaca Governor Gabino Cué said at a press conference that the dead were all civilians, and two had ties to the CNTE teachers’ union, which had mounted blockades at more than a dozen points in the state during most of last week.
There were 53 civilians and 55 police officers injured, some by gunfire. The federal government said in a statement early yesterday that police were not carrying guns, and that the gunfire that had been reported came from people outside the blockades.
But after the Associated Press filmed a police officer firing a gun several times, the Federal Police chief admitted that armed officers had been dispatched after the police came under fire.
Twenty-four people have been arrested in connection with the clash.
Galindo said in a radio interview this morning that police were ambushed in Nochixtlán after persuading protesters to abandon their blockade. But following the 10-minute discussion, in which the protesters offered no resistance, others began firing on police and civilians with rockets, Molotov cocktails and firearms, he said.
Police were unarmed and unprepared for the attack, Galindo said.
The high-powered rockets left several police with burns to their feet and hands, and some have lost fingers, the police chief said.
In spite of yesterday’s operation, police were unable to remove all the blockades and in some cases “radical groups” returned to their original positions.
Sources in the federal government named at least eight organizations they said were behind the violence, including the Popular Revolutionary Front, the Francisco Villa Popular Front, the Independent Zapatista Agrarian Movement and the Civil Insurgency Movement.
The teachers’ union reinstalled blockades yesterday at five locations in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, including the Trans-Isthmus Highway in Juchitán, at Morro Mazatán, where only small vehicles were being allowed to pass, and at Santa María Huamelula and Tehuantepec.
By Saturday, supplies of gasoline and fresh produce had been running low in several communities, particularly in the coastal region, as the blockades have not allowed transport trucks to pass.
UPDATE June 20: The number of people who died has been updated from the original version.