November 20, 2014 / 10:35 PM / 3 years ago

Molotov cocktails, clashes as Mexico City braces for massacre protests

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Masked demonstrators threw Molotov cocktails and shot fireworks at police near Mexico City’s airport on Thursday as thousands prepared to protest President Enrique Pena Nieto’s handling of the apparent massacre of 43 trainee teachers.

A masked demonstrator throws a petrol bomb towards riot police during a protest over the 43 missing Ayotzinapa students, near the Benito Juarez International airport in Mexico City November 20, 2014. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso

Police in riot gear faced down around 300 protesters near the airport a few hours before three major marches were due to begin in support of the students apparently murdered after their abduction by corrupt police on the night of Sept. 26.

No one was injured in the clashes, police said.

The three marches in Mexico City were expected to start later on Thursday and converge on the central square, or Zocalo, on the 114th anniversary of the day the Mexican Revolution to overthrow dictator Porfirio Diaz began in 1910.

Mexico has been convulsed by a string of protests since the 43 students were taken from the southwestern city of Iguala by police working with a local drug gang and then very likely incinerated, according to the attorney general.

Students and relatives of the missing were expected to be among the protesters, whose numbers were estimated in the thousands, said a spokeswoman for Mexico City police.

A separate protest in the historic center of Mexico City saw around 650 students demonstrating peacefully earlier on Thursday, the spokeswoman added.

The government has been plunged into crisis by the violence in Iguala, where six people also died on the night in question.

Exacerbating public discontent has been a scandal over a lucrative rail contract that personally embarrassed Pena Nieto.

Earlier this month, the government abruptly canceled a $3.75 billion high-speed rail contract awarded to a consortium led by China Railway Construction Corp Ltd, partnered with a group of Mexican firms including one known as Grupo High.

It then emerged that a subsidiary of Grupo High owned a luxury house that Pena Nieto’s wife, Angelica Rivera, was in the process of acquiring, raising questions about the tender and prompting her to announce on Tuesday that she would sell the stake.

But the unapologetic tone of Rivera’s announcement has prompted more anger in Mexico, especially as neither she nor her husband have explained why one of the winning team from the rail consortium was also the owner of the family’s house.

Reporting by Dave Graham; Editing by Simon Gardner and Gunna Dickson

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