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Fatal Protest in Acapulco Shows Tensions Remain High in Troubled Guerrero, Mexico

One retired school teacher was killed when federal forces in Acapulco forcibly cleared a blockade by the teachers union CETEG.

by Andrea Noel
Feb 26 2015, 12:45am

Photo by Bernandino Hernandez/AP

One man is dead after confrontations turned violent in the southern Mexican state of Guerrero as police cleared away a road blockade staged by members of the state teachers union.

Claudio Castillo Peña, 65, a retired teacher, died early Wednesday from injuries sustained during the forceful removal on Tuesday of radical members of Guerrero's statewide teachers union, known in Spanish as CETEG.

They were blocking the main road leading to the international airport in the Pacific resort city of Acapulco.

Federal security forces began clearing them away from Las Naciones Boulevard at about 7:30 pm. Chaotic clashes followed as an estimated 1,000 anti-riot officers confronted more than 4,500 teachers and supporters.

Bloody images of injured protesters filled social networks in Mexico since Tuesday evening.

More than one hundred people were arrested, and at least six civilians were injured during the confrontation, state authorities said. Officials also said seven officers were hurt when protesters attempted to run over police with a hijacked passenger bus.

At one point a vehicle was set on fire.

The clashes showed that tensions have far from subsided in the state since a group of 43 rural teaching students were abducted by police and turned over to a drug gang in the city of Iguala last September.

Tuesday's demonstration was called because teachers said they wanted federal officials to guarantee that wages would not be delivered late, as occurred in January, according to La Jornada Guerrero.

Members of CETEG have clashed with authorities at demonstrations across the state in recent months. In December, the teachers union set fire to several police vehicles in the state capital of Chilpancingo, leaving more that half a dozen people injured, including one police officer.

CETEG members have also stormed the state governor's official residence and the state legislative chambers in Chilpancingo.

Related: What the Government Hasn't Said About the Mexico Student Massacre. Read more here.

Interim Guerrero governor Rogelio Ortega denounced the violence, but defended Tuesday's police action.

"There is a radical sector of administrative workers and some teachers that bypass the rule of law, vandalize, and they are also associated with a group of students that is becoming increasingly smaller," Ortega said, callously referring to the Ayotzinapa Normal School, where the missing students were enrolled.

"In this case, it reached a situation in which we were no longer able to maintain the climate of tolerance, of sensibility […] the decision was made to impede [the teachers] from continuing to assault and cause acts of violence," Ortega added.

On Wednesday afternoon, up to 600 union members, teachers, and students marched through Chilpancingo to protest Castillo's death.

The retired teacher was described by protesters who knew him as a dedicated CETEG supporter who regularly attended demonstrations with a cane by his side, and occasionally used a megaphone to call out protest slogans.

Castillo died in a public hospital in Acapulco from complications resulting from severe head wounds. But authorities did not say exactly how the 65-year-old died.

Ayotzinapa students and parents of the missing were scheduled to hold a protest in Mexico City on Thursday, marking five months since the 43 students disappeared.

Related: Watch VICE News' full-length documentary The Missing 43: Mexico's Disappeared Students.

Follow Andrea Noel on Twitter @MetabolizedJunk.