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Mexico: Mob Rule Threatened
   

October 31, 2006: It appears the Mexican government's extensive crackdown on the Oaxaca protestors has succeeded in taking control of the central city. Protests led by members of the Oaxaca People's Popular Assembly (APPO) continue. The protests and occupation cost Oaxaca a lot of money. Over 1.3 million schoolchildren in the region have been kept out of school (many of the protestors belong to the teachers union).

So why did the Mexican government move now, after five months of occupation? The ostensible "tipping point" was the murder, on October 27, of an American journalist and two Mexican citizens. But the Mexican government has been preparing for this action for quite sometime. This summer's Mexican presidential election (in July) prevented the Mexican government from taking action against the protestors barricades and the subsequent "hung election", with its extended unrest, also restricted the government's freedom of action. Now Felipe Calderon's (PAN) narrow victory has been ratified and the PRD's Mexico City protests are subsiding. It appears current Mexican president Vicente Fox (also a PAN party member) did not want Calderon to begin his term with the Oaxaca problem unresolved.

October 30, 2006: On October 29 Mexican police began a two-day long operation to clear Oaxaca of protestors. The protests and occupation of Oaxaca began in May 2006. The protestors (many of them members of the teachers union) were demanding the resignation of Oaxaca's governor, Ulises Ruiz. The police were backed by the Mexican Army. The police action focused on Oaxaca's central plaza (the Zocalo) where protestors had erected barricades. The police task force was backed by bulldozers and several armored vehicles. Scattered protests and police continued in Oaxaca on October 30.

Meanwhile, in Mexico City, "several hundred" sympathizers of the APPO staged protests and even took over two buses in an attempt to block traffic. The Mexico City protests were minor, but they play into the Mexican government's fear of widespread disorder while its security forces focus on Oaxaca.

October 28, 2006; Mexican President Vicente Fox said he would send special federal police units into the city of Oaxaca in an attempt to end the protests that began in May 2006. Fox also said that he hoped the Oaxaca situation would be resolved politically and not with police forces.

Reports also circulated that the men who murdered an American journalist and two Mexicans may have been local policemen. The US ambassador to Mexico said that the American may have been killed in a shoot out between the local police and protestors in Oaxaca.

Outside the city of Acapulco, three more policemen were found murdered. One of the corpses was decapitated. Mexican officials said the three policemen were kidnapped on October 27 in Guerrero state. They were likely the latest victims in the war waged by Mexican drug cartels over Acapulco. The US State Department said in September that approximately 1,500 people have died in drug war related violence in Mexico this year.

October 27, 2006: An American photographer and two Mexican citizens were shot and killed in a clash between protestors in Oaxaca and what were described as "pro-government gunmen." At least four other people were injured in the incident. The murdered American was later identified as Bradley Roland Will who wrote for the leftwing website, Indymedia.org

October 26, 2006: US President George W. Bush signed the "border fence bill" (Secure Fence Act of 2006) into law. The measure provides for up to 1,125 kilometers of new fencing between the US and Mexico. The fence is supposed to help curb illegal immigration. The Mexican government has said it is considering a protest in the United Nations over the fence.

October 23, 2006: A one-time Los Angeles-based street gang has emerged as a player in narcotics trafficking along the Texas-Mexico border. American authorities identified the gang as Mara Salvatrucha 13 (MS-13). According to the Border Patrol, the gang has connections in El Salvador and Honduras as well as Mexico and the US.