MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Protesters threw Molotov cocktails and clashed with riot police outside Mexico City’s National Palace on Thursday as thousands protested against President Enrique Pena Nieto’s handling of the apparent massacre of 43 trainee school teachers.
Hundreds of police in riot gear blocked access to the palace in the capital’s main square, the Zocalo, where thousands of protesters had gathered in support of the students, apparently murdered after their abduction by corrupt police on Sept. 26.
Three marches had been peaceful until they reached the Zocalo, when the protesters incinerated an effigy of Pena Nieto. Protesters managed to burn down the door of the National Palace during a Nov. 9 march.
A smaller group of protesters then swarmed the entrance of the palace before police charged as they cleared the square.
Around 300 masked demonstrators had earlier sparred with police near Mexico City’s airport, throwing Molotov cocktails and fireworks. No one was hurt in those clashes, police said.
Mexico has been convulsed by 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 government, which is still investigating the incident.
The marches took place on the 114th anniversary of the beginning of the Mexican Revolution to overthrow dictator Porfirio Diaz in 1910. The protesters included relatives of the students. Many carried banners with slogans attacking the government such as “the state did it.”
“I‘m here because I don’t want anything like that to happen to my daughter,” said domestic worker Alma Hernandez, 30, who was accompanied by her 6-year-old daughter. “By coming with me, she knows that not everything in the world is rose-tinted, and that not everything the government tells you is true.”
The government has been plunged into crisis by the violence in Iguala, where six people, including three other trainee teachers, also died on Sept. 26.
Exacerbating public discontent has been a scandal over a lucrative rail contract that has embarrassed the president.
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 Higa.
It then emerged that a subsidiary of Grupo Higa 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 give up the house.
Neither she nor her husband have explained why a member of the winning bidders from the rail consortium was also the owner of the family’s house.
Reporting by Lizbeth Diaz and Dave Graham; Editing by Simon Gardner, Alan Crosby and Paul Tait