OAXACA: The Mexican authorities investigated today whether police were responsible for any deaths in weekend violence that killed 10 people amid protests by teachers opposed to the government’s education reform.
The investigation came as thousands of people led by the radical CNTE teachers union marched in the capital of the southern state of Oaxaca to denounce Sunday’s deaths as a “massacre.”
The unrest followed months of protests by teachers who reject President Enrique Pena Nieto’s landmark reform, which requires educators to undergo performance evaluations.
Eight people died in Asuncion Nochixtlan, where police said they were ambushed by an unidentified armed group after officers removed barricades set up by teachers.
Two other people, including a journalist, were killed in another town by unknown gunmen.
Pena Nieto said he “lamented” the deaths and that the attorney general’s office would help state prosecutors investigate the violence “and punish those responsible.”
The agency overseeing the federal police said its internal affairs department would also investigate the clashes in Asuncion Nochixtlan.
Interior Minister Miguel Osorio Chong said Sunday’s violence was “grave” and that the investigation would determine whether the “use of weapons the state and federal police was adequate or not” in Asuncion Nochixtlan.
– Who Shot First? –
Police officers were initially deployed without weapons to remove a weeklong road blockade in Asuncion Nochixtlan, federal police chief Enrique Galindo said.
But armed police were sent after officers were “ambushed” by 2,000 unidentified “radicals,” some of whom were armed, he added. None of the gunmen were teachers, he said.
Seven civilians died of bullet wounds in Asuncion Nochixtlan and another person was killed by an explosive, Oaxaca chief prosecutor Joaquin Carrillo said. Officials had earlier reported six deaths.
“Lines of investigation are being built,” Carillo told a news conference, adding that “nothing will be ruled out.”
Officers will give statements to prosecutors as part of the investigation to determine “who started or didn’t start (firing),” Galindo said.
At least 55 officers were injured, including eight who had gunshot wounds. Others were burned, lost fingers to firework blasts or were hit with machetes.
Some 53 civilians were injured in the clashes and more than 20 people were arrested.
Juan Garcia, a leader of the CNTE union in the Oaxaca region, reported that 22 other people were missing.
The violence was perpetrated by “infiltrators,” he said, adding that the police “fired without mercy” in response.
The union called for an investigation by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and Cue’s resignation.
The unrest comes a decade after protests by the CNTE and other local civil organizations were marked by violence that killed around 20 people, including US cameraman Brad Will. A truth commission recently concluded that security forces committed torture and forced disappearances.