Classes Resume in Oaxaca at University Wracked by Protests

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Students filed by masked demonstrators as classes resumed Monday at a public university overrun by protesters, in the latest sign this colonial city is slowly returning to normal after six months of unrest.

Leftist protesters set up their headquarters at Oaxaca's Autonomous Benito Juarez University early this month after police drove them out of the city's main plaza, which they had occupied for months in a bid to force Oaxaca's state governor to resign.

University spokesman Carlos Pazaran said Monday the science, veterinary medicine and architecture schools remained closed while the dentistry school was only partially running.

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But the rest of the university's staff had returned, and scores of students walked past barricades of rickety buses on their way to class.

"It's not fair that we miss classes for a movement that has nothing to do with us," said student Aurora Lopez, who returned to class Monday.

At least nine people have died since August in the unrest, which has rattled the outgoing administration of President Vicente Fox.

Earlier this month, 30 people were injured during clashes between federal police and protesters after the officers tried to remove barricades on a street near the university.

Rector Francisco Martinez and Mexican Interior Secretary Carlos Abascal vowed Monday to guarantee the safety of the school's 36,000 students, although Martinez made clear federal police would not be allowed on campus. Federal police are not allowed to enter under a law designed to protect academic freedom.

The Oaxaca protests began in May with a strike by teachers looking for better pay and turned into a campaign for the resignation of Gov. Ulises Ruiz after police under his command violently broke up a demonstration.

Leftists, Indian groups and students have joined in, as protesters accuse Ruiz of rigging the 2004 election to win office and sending groups of armed thugs to kill and intimidate his opponents.

Also Monday, parents and teachers opened additional public primary and high school classrooms, joining dozens of schools that have reopened despite the ongoing teachers strike.