OAXACA, Mexico – Strike-weary residents took to the streets Monday to thank federal police for intervening in violent demonstrations that had held their city hostage for months, but the demonstrators said they would take back the city center in their push for the governor's resignation.
Teachers had promised to end their five-month strike for higher wages and go back to work Monday, but no students returned to classes in the tense capital.
On Sunday, federal police tore down protest blockades and pushed demonstrators out of the main square that had served as their home base for five months.
The colonial city, a favorite of tourists, more closely resembled a battleground early Monday, with streets littered with charred cars and lines of federal police blocking some entrances to the main zocalo plaza.
The city was deeply divided between protesters demanding Gov. Ulises Ruiz's resignation and those wanting a return to the tranquil days when foreign tourists browsed shops and dined on the region's famous mole sauce.
Ignoring protesters who screamed "Sellout!" a group of about 20 residents welcomed the police, touring streets and thanking authorities for taking control of the city.
"I don't want them to leave. Let them stay," Edith Mendoza, a 40-year-old housewife, said of the police. "We were held hostage for five months."
Before dawn Monday, federal police tore down the protesters' banners in the main square, mostly to wrap around themselves for warmth because they had been sent in without sleeping bags.
Riot police in body armor slept on sidewalks under the plaza's famous archways, rolled up against the chill night air in banners that once proclaimed people's power or demanded the resignation of the governor. Others sought warmth by burning bits of banners, wooden crates and other debris left behind by the protesters.
Interior Secretary Carlos Abascal said the federal forces would remain until order had been established and they were no longer needed.
There was still the threat of violence as protesters vowed to march on the zocalo. Police stationed water tanks in the four corners of the central plaza in preparation, and blocked anyone from entering.
The federal government's decision to send forces into Oaxaca came after teachers agreed to return to work by Monday, ending a strike that kept 1.3 million children out of classes across the southern state.
But Enrique Rueda, leader of the teachers' union, told The Associated Press that no students had returned to class in the capital on Monday, although some had in cities and towns outside of Oaxaca City.
While some teachers planned to return, others said they would stay home.
"We are not willing to go back (to work) until we get written guarantees" for teachers' safety, said Daniel Reyes, one of the last of the striking teachers to leave the main square as police surrounded it Sunday night.
During the strike, some dissident teachers tried to open schools, and parents armed with sticks and pipes fought off protesters who tried to keep children from entering.
Public Safety Secretary Eduardo Medina Mora said seven police were injured in the weekend clashes. A few were hit by gasoline bombs thrown by protesters.
"There is no cause that justifies violence," he said.
Protesters claimed two of their own were killed, but federal authorities said they could not confirm that.
Protest spokesman Roberto Garcia said 50 supporters had been arrested and police were searching houses, looking for protest leaders.
A scattering of businesses, including the city's famous public marketplace, reopened Monday in an attempt to return to normal. As shoppers browsed through the market's stalls, stocked with supplies of marigolds to celebrate upcoming Day of the Dead celebrations, others lined up at bank machines. But most of the city remained shuttered.
"Today in Oaxaca social order and peace has been restored," President Vicente Fox said Monday.
Ruiz — whom the protesters accuse of corruption and rigging elections — was scheduled to give his state-of-the-state address on Monday.
He refused to resign, saying: "This is not up for discussion. This is not the solution. The solution is the construction of agreements."
Fox, who leaves office Dec. 1, resisted repeated calls to send federal forces to Oaxaca until Saturday, a day after gunfire killed a U.S. activist-journalist and two residents.