MEXICO CITY (AP) — A top Mexican official on Friday demanded an immediate end to roadblocks by protesting teachers in restive southern states that have caused chaos and resulted in eight deaths.
Interior Secretary Miguel Angel Osorio Chong said the unrest has hurt millions in Oaxaca and Chiapas, keeping people and commerce from circulating freely, harming small businesses and preventing children from going to school.
Osorio Chong and other officials have been in talks with representatives of the teachers, who oppose recent education reforms that the government says are now the law and cannot be reversed.
But now, "the blockades and damages to the citizenry must end," Osorio Chong said in a strongly worded message before journalists in Mexico City. "Therefore the necessary decisions will soon be taken to allow transit on strategic roads and the supply of provisions to communities."
"The time is up," he added, a phrase he repeated twice for emphasis.
Members of a dissident teachers union are angry over elements of the reforms such as forcing instructors to submit to evaluations and measures allowing for their dismissal if they have too many unauthorized absences.
Eight people were killed in clashes between protesters and police at a roadblock June 19 in Oaxaca state.
On Thursday, the Mexican government began airlifting food to Oaxaca after business leaders and officials said supplies of gasoline, food and other goods were running low due to the highway blockades.
Osorio Chong said the government remains open to dialogue, "but it is also obliged to be a guarantor of citizens' freedoms and rights."