Ruiz snubs calls for resignation

OUT OF ORDER: Oaxaca's governor had nothing but contempt for a resolution demanding that he step down which received the backing of his own party


Wed, Nov 01, 2006 - Page 7

The governor of Oaxaca State, the site of five months of violent protests, rejected calls by Mexico's legislature on Monday to resign as federal police continued to clear demonstrators from the southern city.

Ulises Ruiz gave a tired "no" to reporters' questions of whether he would bow to pressure from the government to resign, insisting he would see peace restored to Oaxaca city and would meet protestors to negotiate.

The presence of federal police "will not resolve the conflict, and for that reason it is necessary to open talks" with the protest groups, he said.

"The solution to the conflict is over a negotiating table," Ruiz insisted.

Ten people have been killed in and around Oaxaca since the protest movement began in June over the city's tough handling of a teacher strike demanding higher wages.

Although the teachers voted last week to go back to work, thousands of demonstrators remained, blocking the streets of Oaxaca demanding Ruiz step down.

On Saturday President Vicente Fox ordered federal police clear the streets and restore peace.

But on Monday both the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate passed non-binding resolutions demanding Ruiz's resignation.

The Senate resolution was unanimous and backed even by Ruiz's Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). It called on the governor to "consider resigning from office to help restore law and order" to the troubled region.

The resolution fell short of actually firing Ruiz but was worded more strongly than the Chamber's earlier statement, which passed by a two-thirds majority.

But an angry Ruiz vowed to take the legislators' demand to the Supreme Court, saying they were out of order.

The members of the Chamber of Deputies, he told W Radio, "have no authority ... to make such demands that violate Oaxaca's sovereignty."

Hundreds of riot police controlled Oaxaca's central square on Monday, where a day earlier a tent-city protest was cleared, but thousands of demonstrators defied security measures in other parts of the city insisting on Ruiz's ouster.

While President Fox said on Monday that "peace and tranquility has been restored," Interior Secretary Carlos Abascal insisted that some 4,000 federal police and soldiers would remain in Oaxaca until complete order is restored.

Abascal said that the federal forces would also ensure the safety of students and teachers as schools, shuttered by the protests, reopened.

Protesters in Oaxaca broke out in cheers when the resolutions were announced. "Like it or not, Ulises is already out," they chanted at one point.

The streets of Oaxaca were calm on Monday, but most of its residents were wary of venturing outside and many shops remained closed. Public transport was also suspended.