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Mexican riot police clash with protesters in Oaxaca

Demonstrators and riot police have again clashed in the Mexican city of Oaxaca, the scene of five months of protests against the state governor, Ulises Ruiz. Several thousand protesters converged on the main square, vowing to retake the city centre after police moved in at the weekend to restore order. Striking teachers and leftist activists are demanding that Governor Ulises Ruiz be sacked for abuse of power. Mexico's lawmakers have urged Mr Ruiz to quit, but he says he will stay on. Senators unanimously approved a resolution calling on him to "consider resigning from office to help restore law and order" in Oaxaca. The Senate's motion came hours after a similar measure was approved by the lower house of the congress.

Calls for Mr Ruiz's resignation have been at the heart of a drawn-out protest by Mexican teachers and left-wing activists, who accuse him of authoritarianism and corruption. Over the weekend, some 4,000 riot police entered Oaxaca, removing demonstrators from the city centre. One man was reported to have died in the operation.

Mexican President Vicente Fox ordered the action on Saturday, a day after unidentified gunmen killed three people, including a US journalist.

Tense stand-off

"Murderers! Murderers!" chanted the demonstrators, as they rallied near the police cordon in the central square of the state capital. "The mood is very tense. We're standing with the protesters in front of police barricades and they have lit bonfire, are tossing fireworks," told Mark Stevenson, an Associated Press reporter.

One policeman was reportedly injured by fireworks and taken to hospital. Police responded with volleys of teargas and used water cannons to extinguish the fires. Despite the growing pressure both from the protesters and the federal lawmakers, Mr Ruiz - who rejects the accusations against him - said he would not step down. "Within the next few hours we expect life will return to normal in the state capital," he told reporters on Monday. The governor also said the Mexican federal parliament had no control over Oaxaca.

Schools shut

The protests began in May, virtually paralysing the city. The teachers initially staged the walk-out to demand higher pay and better working conditions. However, after police attacked one of their demonstrations in June, they extended their demands to include a call for the governor's resignation. The teachers were then joined in their protest by left-wing groups. Thousands of schools have been closed since the strike began, leaving 1.3 million children out of school.

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