A 65-year-old retired teacher was killed and dozens of people injured when police forcefully broke up a demonstration that blocked main roads in the tourist city of Acapulco, threatening a key component of Mexico’s economy, authorities said Wednesday.
The demonstrators, including a radical teachers union and its supporters, had cut off access to the Acapulco airport Tuesday when police intervened. More than 100 protesters were arrested, and police gave tourists escorts to their flights.
Demonstrators took to the streets again Wednesday, the latest in a long string of street unrest in the troubled state of Guerrero, where Acapulco is located, and elsewhere in Mexico. By midday, the demonstrations had focused on Guerrero's capital, Chilpancingo, on the road to Acapulco.
The retired teacher, Claudio Castillo Peña, died as a result of blows to the head early Wednesday, according to Raul Miliani, deputy chief of Guerrero civil protection. The teacher’s colleagues said he was beaten to death by police.
“We were 40,000 education workers marching, and when we came together, we decided to march to the airport,” Manuel Salvador Rosas, a member of the teachers union, said in a radio interview.
Tuesday’s confrontation apparently turned violent after nightfall when someone plowed a bus into a crowd of police and demonstrators. “That’s when the use of excessive force was unleashed against us,” Rosas said. He denied his organization was responsible for the bus.
But the Interior Ministry accused the demonstrators -- whose number it put at 4,500 -- of using the bus to attack police after hours of exhortations by authorities for the group to disperse. They were blocking access to and from the city and to the airport, the ministry said in a statement, adding that police were also among the injured.
“Federal forces facilitated the transfer of travelers who were using the airport, so that tourism not be affected,” the statement said.
Once a tourist mecca, Acapulco has seen a major decline in the number of international visitors in part because Guerrero has one of the highest homicide rates in the country. Domestic tourism to Acapulco ebbs and flows with the surges of violence.
The basic gripe that the teachers and their supporters have is an education reform by President Enrique Peña Nieto that, among other matters, would centralize the payment of teachers’ salaries. Until now, salaries have been paid at the state level, and the bloated payrolls have allowed much money to flow into the hands of people who have nothing to do with education.
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