MEXICO CITY, Oct 3 ― Mexico City police blocked the entrance to the stock exchange today as thousands rallied on the main business boulevard and clashed with officers to protest President Enrique Pena Nieto’s economic agenda.
Police said about 30,000 students, teachers and supporters closed off the Paseo de la Reforma boulevard, with hundreds outside the Bolsa Mexicana and US Embassy. Officers clad in riot gear used fire extinguishers and tear gas to defend themselves against protesters attacking with sticks, rocks and Molotov cocktails in the capital’s historic centre. Stock exchange trading wasn’t disrupted as transactions are carried out electronically, the Bolsa’s press office said.
Teachers clashed with police in Mexico City’s main square on September 13 and have been blocking access to government buildings and the airport off and on since August to protest Pena Nieto’s education overhaul passed last month, which requires evaluations for hiring and promotion. The crowds grew today as students joined the marches to commemorate the anniversary of the Tlatelolco massacre, when government troops shot and killed student protesters on October 2, 1968.
Ricardo Zarate, 16, a Mexico City public school student, said he was marching “to commemorate October 2 and against the structural reforms,” government proposals ranging from increasing tax collection to opening state-owned oil producer Petroleos Mexicanos to more private investment.
“The reforms will hurt everyone and only benefit a few,” Zarate said. “This is like it was in 1968. The students rose up against the government. Now we’re doing the same.”
Four helicopters and 5,000 officers were deployed in the capital to ensure security amid looting and vandalism, according to the Mexico City police. Dozens of youths clad in black and wearing masks to cover their faces destroyed a bus station on Reforma with sticks and stones and broke storefront windows.
At least 12 police officers were injured in confrontations with protesters and 15 demonstrators were detained, according to Mexico City-based newspaper Milenio.
Fortino Martinez, a 56-year-old secondary school teacher from Oaxaca and member of the CNTE, the smaller of the country’s two main teacher unions, said the union protested at the stock exchange and US Embassy to increase awareness of its message that the new education laws must be rescinded.
“We look for places of maximum impact,” he said. “If we don’t come here to demonstrate, no one will hear us.” ― Bloomberg