Fri, Oct 06, 2006 - Page 7 News List

Oaxaca protesters end their takeover of radio station

AP , OAXACA, MEXICO

Leftist protesters and striking teachers ended their takeover of one Oaxaca radio station, but refused to attend government talks aimed at ending their four-month-long occupation of this colonial city's center.

In a rare show of progress in the standoff, protesters on Wednesday walked out of the offices of Radio Oro, a station they have held since late August. It was unclear whether they also intended to end their takeover of two other media outlets seized around the same time.

Protesters sometimes broadcast radical or threatening messages over the airwaves, but said they decided to give Radio Oro up because the station was no longer useful to them.

Also Wednesday, protest leaders told reporters they would not attend talks in Mexico City because they wanted 28 representatives at the meeting, instead of the four seats they said the Interior Department had offered.

"This is part of the federal government's policy to divide the movement," said Arturo Perez, a representative of the Oaxaca teacher's union. "We are prepared to continue with the struggle until we achieve our goal."

Protesters have demanded that Oaxaca Governor Ulises Ruiz step down before they will consider negotiating any of their other demands, like pay raises.

The protesters told local media they had received another invitation from the government to continue talks yesterday, but said they believe that government forces may soon try to retake the city.

Helicopters and military planes have flown over the protesters while thousands of state police have gathered outside the city.

Mexican Interior Secretary Carlos Abascal has said he is seeking a political solution but warned the use of force could be a "last resort." He has called on all sides to attend the Mexico City talks.

Ruiz on Wednesday echoed previous calls for the federal government to send troops, saying, "The rule of law is not up for negotiation. Those who break the law should face the law."

Protest leader Soledad Ortiz said she believed that a military or police effort to end the protest was "imminent," adding, "repression ... is just around the corner."

The unrest has scared most tourists away from the city, which is normally popular for its colonial architecture and ancient pyramids.

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