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In Mexico, social unrest reflects rising expectations

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The 2006 race, the closest in history, has the free-trade advocate Felipe Calderón winning with a little more than half a percentage point over Andrés Manuel López Obrador, an outspoken advocate of the poor – and has split the country along geographic and class lines.

In Oaxaca, an annual protest by the teachers' union morphed last month into a mass movement calling for Governor Ruiz's resignation when he ordered state police to clear out strikers from the teacher's union, who have been leading an annual protest for higher wages for 26 years.

The government response represents a heavy-handedness that observers say the people of Mexico will no longer accept. The repression, which included tear gas, angered union groups, farmers, and radical political organizations alike. They have banded together to demand his resignation, sleeping in shifts in the central plaza, or zocalo.

"The PRI bet that the traditional way of doing things would work," says Gloria Zafra, a sociologist at the Benito Juarez Autonomous University of Oaxaca. "But the people changed."

The power struggle in Oaxaca has drawn other embittered residents, protesters say, including activists from San Salvador Atenco, where the May demonstrations took place. One banner for "Radio Kapucha," a radio station formed by activists from Chiapas, makes reference to a crusade launched by Zapatista rebel leader "Subcomandante Marcos" this winter to expose what he called the inadequacy of all three main presidential candidates.

"It is time that we all come together and participate," says Mari Gutierrez, who teaches religion classes outside Oaxaca City and has joined a group of Catholic organizations camping out in the zocalo. "A lot of us are becoming conscious that the government [officials] are liars, and we need to join the people's fight against inequality and injustice."

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