Protesters have launched rockets at riot police in Mexico, amid new demonstrations against education reforms that left eight people dead on Sunday, according to reports. Another 100 people were injured when police tried to stop a highway from being blocked in the southern Oaxaca state at the weekend.
Teachers and their supporters took to the streets again on Monday, carrying a makeshift coffin, amid allegations of police repression. Speaking on local radio, federal police chief Enrique Galindo attributed the violence to “radical groups”, saying that few teachers had been involved.
Mr Galindo said about 2,000 protesters had been on the streets on Sunday, some of them carrying gasoline bombs and powerful fireworks. He ordered armed officers to move in when gunshots had been confirmed.
“It was a radical change of scene,” Mr Galindo said. “It was practically an ambush.” Speaking at a news conference, Mr Galindo showed pictures of a police helicopter that had been hit by bullets.
He also said three federal police officers were being held in Nochixtlan. State prosecutor Joaquin Carrillo said seven civilians – none of them teachers – had died of bullet wounds on Sunday. Another person had died of wounds suffered while handling a powerful firework.
The CNTE teachers’ union disagreed with that assessment, saying teachers were among those killed. It also denied the presence of radical groups, and claimed police had infiltrated their movement.
It said 20 people were missing. “This movement is not going to stop,” said union member Juan Garcia. “We don’t want any more massacres. We don’t want repression. “The police need to go back to their stations because Oaxaca is not at war.
“We’re protesting peacefully, expressing what we think is not good. “This is why we demand negotiations where we can have a debate.” The dispute is over reforms introduced in 2013, stipulating that teachers should be tested periodically to ensure they are up to standard.
Failure could result in a teacher losing their job. Sunday’s episode was the worst incident in a series of protests in recent months.