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Hotels, shops to close in tense Mexican city

Scores of restaurants, hotels and shops in the Mexican city of Oaxaca will close for a day next week to protest the federal government’s failure to halt violent protests that have slashed tourist numbers.
/ Source: Reuters

Scores of restaurants, hotels and shops in the Mexican city of Oaxaca will close for a day next week to protest the federal government’s failure to halt violent protests that have slashed tourist numbers.

Business owners in Oaxaca, a pretty colonial city now sprayed with graffiti and full of burned cars and smoking garbage as left-wing radicals try to topple the state governor, agreed on Friday to close their doors on Tuesday.

Protesters, who have set up camps in the central Zocalo square, say Oaxaca state Gov. Ulises Ruiz is corrupt and oppressive and they want him to resign.

The three-month crisis in Oaxaca has seen half-a-dozen people killed and has driven away all but a handful of tourists, costing local businesses some $100 million in lost revenue, according to a local business chamber.

Some two dozen businesses have had to close and some 800 jobs have been lost, business leaders said on Friday.

“If they don’t take any notice, the next action will be to stop paying taxes, and it’s likely this will happen next week,” said Fredy Alcantara, head of a local hotels association.

One more crisis
The federal government has kept its distance from the crisis, although it recently offered to send Interior Minister Carlos Abascal to mediate in talks between the two camps.

The protest, which started out as a peaceful sit-in strike by some 40,000 teachers demanding higher pay, has heightened tensions as Mexico is already being buffeted by a political crisis over a contested presidential election.

Protests against Ruiz spun out of control this week when gunmen believed to be off-duty police opened fire on protesters, killing one person.

Demonstrators, many from poor areas outside the city, have seized local radio stations, barricaded roads and burned buses, scaring residents and the few remaining tourists.

Shops and cafes are empty, and at night streets normally buzzing with bar-hopping backpackers are silent but for groups of activists armed with sticks and carrying tires to burn.

On Friday, members of the International Red Cross arrived in the city to evaluate the situation.

The national election crisis has seen leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador launch peaceful sit-in protests in Mexico City to push his demand that conservative Felipe Calderon’s narrow victory in the July 2 vote be ruled fraudulent.

A court will decide in the next two weeks which of the two is president-elect.