Leaders of protests trying to bring
down a Mexican state governor they say is corrupt tentatively
agreed late on Monday to scale back a months-old occupation of
the tourist city of Oaxaca.
After thousands of protesters marched for days to get to
Mexico City, the government and leaders of a teachers union
said they made a deal that could see the protesters cede
control of most of downtown Oaxaca to local police under
Leftist activists and striking teachers have shut down the
colonial center of Oaxaca for four months, hoping to force the
resignation of Gov. Ulises Ruiz, who they accuse of corruption,
heavy-handed tactics and ignoring widespread poverty.
Union leader Enrique Rueda told reporters he agreed to
quickly consult the strikers about removing most street
barricades in the city and returning to classes but said they
would continue to push the Senate to make Ruiz step down.
"Since Ulises Ruiz Ortiz is still there, the conflict has
not ended," Rueda said.
As part of the tentative agreement, the government agreed
to release protesters who were jailed in recent months and
steadily raise teachers' pay in coming years, Rueda said.
"We're prepared to implement the steps immediately," said
Interior Minster Carlos Abascal.
Thousands of protesters had walked the 280 miles from
pretty colonial Oaxaca City. They arrived at the tattered
outskirts of Mexico City on Monday, shouting and waving banners
to support their leaders who had been in deadlocked talks with
President Vicente Fox's government.
Protesters set up camp outside the Senate, where some tore
down barriers as riot police with shields and gas masks looked
on. Senators will decide whether or not Ruiz has lost control
of Oaxaca state and needs to step down.
In Oaxaca City's central square, protesting teachers were
surprised at the terms of the deal.
"This is bad because what we want most is for Ulises to be
removed, not so much the salary raise," said teacher Benito
Fox had vowed to resolve the conflict before handing power
to his ruling party successor Felipe Calderon on December 1.
Protesters had lifted some barricades over the weekend as a
sign of good will.
Ambushes and paramilitary-style drive-by shootings, which
protesters say were ordered by Ruiz, have killed at least five
activists since the conflict began.
A prominent teacher who had opposed the strike was murdered
last week, his throat cut. Both sides denied responsibility for
The protests have left Oaxaca scarred with graffiti and
strewn with burned out cars, scaring away tourists who provide
the city's main income.
Ruiz belongs to a traditional wing of the Institutional
Revolutionary Party, or PRI, which ruled the country for 71
years until Fox's 2000 victory and still wields almost feudal
power in some of rural Mexico's poorest outposts.
With additional reporting by Jennifer Szymaszek and Frank
Copyright © 2006 Reuters Limited