Picketers storm newspaper offices in southern Mexico
MEXICO CITY – Picketers stormed the offices of a newspaper in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca, destroying computers and dragging from the building journalists and press workers who had been blocked inside for about a month, a reporter at the paper said on Tuesday.Noticias of Oaxaca, which has been critical of the state government, has been blockaded by picketers claiming to be striking workers. The newspaper’s employees say the protesters aren’t participating in any strike and that the government is waging a campaign against the paper.Reporter Octavio Velez said he was dragged out of newspaper offices on Monday night, as a mob of 80 or more people forced open the doors of Noticias and destroyed computers and furniture inside.”They came in with clubs, pipes and sticks,” Velez said. “They destroyed the doors, the windows. They overtook us with violence.”No serious injuries were reported. Two press workers were missing on Tuesday, Velez said.Later in the day, the Inter American Press Association renewed its calls for federal officials to intervene in the standoff.”We reiterate that the federal government and especially President Vicente Fox take urgent steps to solve the conflict in Oaxaca immediately,” Gonzalo Marroquín, chairman of the Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, said in a statement.He added that during the next meeting of IAPA officers this Friday that they will examine the possibility of sending an investigative mission to Mexico.The conflict at Noticias of Oaxaca escalated Monday after Fox indicated he would intervene, Velez said. The president’s office did not comment a day later, however. Oaxaca state officials have not responded to repeated requests for comment.But a state police commander has suggested that distributing the paper could be considered a crime during the “strike,” which is led by a ruling-party union official.The union protesting outside the paper, the Revolutionary Confederation of Workers and Peasants, or CROC, has allegedly hijacked trucks carrying the paper, as part of their labor action. Union officials could not be reached immediately for comment.Velez said police who arrived on the scene Monday night did nothing to intervene and “gave legitimacy to this act of delinquency,” a reference to the allegedly false strike.The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists and other press-freedom groups have called on the Oaxacan government to halt the picket line and stop seizures of copies of the newspaper.Velez said some picketers wore masks and carried pistols as they broke in to Noticias on Monday, although there was no gunfire.”We filed a police report, but the government is judge and jury,” Velez said.Velez said the paper would continue to publish, but declined to say where or how, citing safety concerns.