Violent clashes between police and unionized teachers in Mexico have left several dead and dozens injured. A radical teachers' union is leading the protests, which were sparked by controversial education reforms.
At least six people were killed and over 100 were wounded in southern Mexico on Sunday as police clashed with thousands of teachers blocking streets in the town of Asuncion Nochixtlan, in Oaxaca state.
Police fired tear gas to break up the protests amid reports officers were wielding lethal weapons in order to disperse the demonstrators. Authorities have denied the charges.
Oaxaca state Governor Gabino Cue raised the death toll during a late-night press conference with Federal Police chief Enrique Galindo.
They said 53 civilians, 41 federal police agents and 14 state police agents were injured in the clashes. An additional 21 people have been detained.
Questions over guns
Galindo later said an armed unit of officers was deployed after an unidentified group "fired weapons on police and the population."
"There are reports of the presence of various violent groups that have headed the blockades of roads and strategic installations for days," the federal and state governments said in a joint statement, calling for the teachers' union to distance itself from these groups.
Paramedics said three of the victims had bullet wounds.
One of the victims was a minor while the other two were 23 and 28 years old, according to paramedics who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly. Many of the injured people were taken to the town's church before being transferred to hospitals, where several remain in "critical" condition, said the government.
Meanwhile, the Mexican National Security Commission said in a statement that 21 federal police were wounded during the protests, including three hit by gunshots.
Radical union leads
The National Education Workers Coordinator (CNTE) union - considered a radical wing of a national union - has been leading protests in Oaxaca for days against education reforms and the arrest of two of its leaders. The CNTE denounced what it called the "repressive action of the federal and state government."
Clashes continued Sunday evening outside Oaxaca city itself, where protesters burned federal police installations.
CNTE has staunchly opposed President Enrique Pena Nieto's education reforms, which require teachers to undergo performance evaluations. It has also protested last weekend's arrest of one of its leaders, Ruben Nunez, and his deputy, Francisco Villalobos. Nunez faces money laundering charges, while Villalobos has been accused of stealing textbooks.
rs/ bw/cmk (AP, AFP, Reuters)