Rebellious townspeople clash with Mexican police after declaring
MARK STEVENSON, Associated Press Writer Wednesday, January 14, 2004
(01-14) 15:58 PST MEXICO CITY (AP) --
Dissidents battled police Wednesday in a small town south of Mexico
after police entered to reinstate a mayor run out by opponents.
The clash involving guns and molotov cocktails and left one man dead
several others injured.
Earlier in the week, dissidents aided by leftist supporters had seized
town hall in Tlalnepantla, Morelos and declared the hamlet an
The dispute resembled a 2002 standoff in which rebellious farmers
town of Atenco, east of Mexico City, for over a year, blocking
taking hostages, halting elections and facing down federal authorities.
Authorities in southern Morelos state appeared determined not to allow
establishment of an Atenco-style autonomous municipality, like the
run by the leftist Zapatista rebels in Chiapas.
Such townships refuse secret-ballot elections, black access by federal
state authorities, and reject all government development programs.
Morelos Governor Sergio Estrada said police were attacked by dissidents
they entered Tlalnepantla, in what he called an effort "to prevent
between the mayor's supporters and dissidents ... at the request of the
legally-elected mayor of the town."
"These dissidents were supported by subversive groups from outside the
town," Estrada said, referring to reports that radical leaders from
had visited the Tlalnepantla, 35 miles (55 kms) south of Mexico City.
groups were apparently supplying them with weapons."
Police recovered the town hall, allowing Mayor Elias Osorio to return.
dissidents refuse to recognize him, arguing that their traditional
voice-vote nomination for the mayorship was ignored by political party
leaders, who instead nominated Osorio.
Police arrested about a dozen people on weapons possession and other
charges; the fighting including exchanges of gunfire, tear gas and
cocktails. By contrast, authorities never made a serious attempt to
intervene in Atenco.
One man among the dissidents died after being shot. The injured -- five
dissidents and three police -- appeared to have suffered non-life
"The security forces attacked the people," said leftist federal
Victor Suarez. "The (state) government has decided to use force,
dialogue, to resolve the conflict."
Many of the dissidents scattered into the surrounding mountains after
clash. Several dozen of their supporters held a protest march to
Tlalnepantla from Tlayacapan, a town about 5 miles to the south,
"free the political prisoners" and demanding Estrada step down.
Tlalnepantla had been deadlocked for months, with dissidents refusing
recognize the mayor since November. A deadline for resolving the
or scheduling new elections -- was to have run out Wednesday.
Morelos officials posted about 300 state police in the town, and
they were not going to allow any autonomous municipalities.
"As far as state authorities are concerned, the only legitimate
representatives who exist are the ones who were legally elected," said
German Castanon, assistant state interior secretary.