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Rebecca Romero, "Women Seize TV Station in Oaxaca, Mexico"

Women Seize TV Station in Oaxaca, Mexico

Rebecca Romero

From SF Gate

About 500 women banging spoons against pots and pans seized a state-run television station and broadcast a homemade video Wednesday that showed police kicking protesters out of Oaxaca's main square last month.

The women took control of Oaxaca's Channel 9 station Tuesday and held employees for about six hours before releasing them. It was unclear how long the siege would last and police were nowhere to be seen near the station Wednesday.

The standoff is the latest by demonstrators who accuse Gov. Ulises Ruiz of rigging his 2004 election victory and violently repressing opposition groups.

Station director Mercedes Rojas said the state has filed a criminal complaint with the federal attorney general's office, noting that the station has about $54.5 million worth of equipment inside and that the protesters had threatened the 60 employees with violence while holding them captive.Federal officials have not commented on the standoff.

Tensions have been on the rise since June, when state police attacked a demonstration of striking teachers occupying the historic central plaza and demanding a wage increase.

Since then, thousands of teachers, unionists and leftists have camped out in the plaza, spray-painting buildings with revolutionary slogans, smashing hotel windows and erecting makeshift barricades. Most businesses remain closed.

The unrest has paralyzed one of Mexico's top cultural attractions, where visitors to the southern city normally browse traditional markets for Indian handicrafts, hike ancient pyramids and stroll cobblestone streets to sample mole dishes. Officials recently canceled a prominent cultural festival because of fears that violence could injure tourists and residents.

Tourism is down 75 percent, costing the city more than $45 million, according to the Mexican Employers Federation. Business leaders have asked the federal government to intervene, but aides to President Vicente Fox have said the problem must be resolved at the state level.