Leftist guerrillas claim responsibility for explosions in Mexico City, demand Oaxaca governor resign
MEXICO CITY – A coalition of five leftist guerrilla groups from the conflict-torn southern state of Oaxaca claimed responsibility Monday for homemade bombs that exploded at the top electoral court, a bank and the former ruling party’s headquarters, rattling nerves but causing no injuries in a country wracked by protests.Leftist protesters have battled police for control of Oaxaca City since last week, and the guerrilla statement pledged to continue “military” actions – presumably more such attacks – until the Oaxaca state governor resigns. That resignation is the main demand of protesters, who have set up barricades and occupied various parts of the city since late May in conflicts that have left nine people dead.”Our political-military action is a response to our determination to reply with revolutionary violence to the violence unleashed by the lords of power and money,” said the guerrilla groups in a statement dated Monday and e-mailed to the news media.The rebels said they would continue such actions as long as “repressive federal and local forces continue to repress the people,” an apparent reference to the federal police raid of Oaxaca a week ago that pushed the protesters out of the city’s main central plaza, the Zocalo.The guerrilla groups first appeared in late August in a rural area of Oaxaca state, when about a dozen rebels wearing masks, military-style uniforms and carrying assault rifles passed out leaflets supporting the cause of the Oaxaca City protesters, according to local media reports.Authorities and political parties condemned the bombings.”We categorically reject these criminal acts aimed at frightening the population, and we’re going to work vigorously to clear this up and guarantee security,” President Vicente Fox said.Mexico City Mayor Alejandro Encinas said the explosions were “creating a climate of uncertainty,” and the Attorney General’s Office announced that it had launched a federal investigation of the blasts.Security was intensified in the city’s public transportation system, as well as at the presidential residence, Los Pinos, federal government offices and at the U.S. and British embassies, said a spokesman for the city police department who was not authorized to give his name.The explosions shortly after midnight damaged an auditorium at the headquarters of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI. Pieces of the concrete bust of former Mexican President Plutarco Elias Calles – the PRI’s founder for whom the auditorium is named – lay scattered on the ground. There appeared to be little damage inside the party’s offices.”I heard one explosion, and then a stronger one that shook the buildings, and the windows and glass doors,” said Valeano Toledo, 27, a private security guard at the PRI headquarters.The blasts also shattered windows and caused damage at a branch of Canadian-owned Scotiabank, the Federal Electoral Tribunal and businesses and residences near the court.Police deactivated two other bombs. One was at a second Scotiabank near the court and another outside a Sanborns restaurant, a chain owned by billionaire Carlos Slim, near the PRI headquarters, said Mexico City Public Safety Secretary Joel Ortega.Authorities said the deactivated bomb at the Scotiabank was inside a box labeled “Bomb-Danger.” It was made with a digital watch, a battery and ammonium nitrate and fuel oil.Ortega said emergency officials received an anonymous call warning that bombs were about to be detonated.The explosions came a day after more than 20,000 people marched in the southern city of Oaxaca to demand the withdrawal of federal police who were sent in on Oct. 29 to end violence linked to a five-month protest against the state’s governor, Ulises Ruiz. Demonstrators claim Ruiz, a PRI member, rigged the 2004 elections.Protest leader Flavio Sosa said his movement was not responsible for Monday’s blasts.”We don’t condemn anything, but we also don’t have anything to do with these acts. Ours is a democratic and pacific movement,” Sosa said.A PRI representative told radio station Formato 21 the explosions were probably carried out by groups trying to destabilize the government before President-elect Felipe Calderon’s swearing-in on Dec. 1. Calderon is a member of Fox’s National Action Party.The PRI, which ruled Mexico for 71 years before Fox’s 2000 triumph, backed the electoral tribunal when it confirmed Calderon’s victory by less than 1 percentage point over leftist Democratic Revolution Party candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.Lopez Obrador, a former Mexico City mayor, cried fraud and launched a massive protest that clogged the capital for more than a month to demand a recount, which the court refused to order.Leonel Cota, president of Lopez Obrador’s party, denounced the blasts.”In a strained political environment, these acts can generate a climate of fear, of tension and of discordance, that could be used to justify restrictions of rights, constitutional guarantees and repressive acts,” he said in a statement.In recent years, small bombs, accompanied by messages in which small, radical leftist groups took responsibility, have been placed at several banks in Mexico.—Associated Press reporters Lisa J. Adams, Mark Stevenson, Kathleen Miller and Ioan Grillo contributed to this report.