MORELIA, Mexico – Police in the western Mexican state of Michoacan arrested early Saturday nearly 200 college students after they clashed in the historic downtown of the state capital of Morelia, leaving dozens of students, officials, paramedics and firefighters injured.
At about 4:10 a.m., 200 state police officers burst into the Nicolaita hostel for needy students, located in Avenida Francisco I. Madera, where hours before the inhabitants had set fire to a patrol car.
A similar operation to remove protesters was carried out simultaneously at the Dos de Octubre hostel, where a state government vehicle had been burned the previous evening.
Police made a surprise raid on both hostels, which sparked a clash with tear gas, clubs and rocks, which ended two hours later with the arrest of 198 students, most of them from other states around the country.
Also taking part in the operation were federal police officers, who surrounded other student hostels to stop their inhabitants from coming to the aid of their classmates, since all of them belong to the Committee of Embattled University Students, or CUL, and the Movement of the Hopeful and the Rejected, or MAR.
CUL and MAR are still holding eight other state vehicles that they commandeered on Thursday during a series of street blockades demanding that Gov. Fausto Vallejo provide them with 18 vans, supposedly to inform would-be students in rural communities about the Michoacan University of San Nicolas de Hidalgo, or UMSNH, application process.
Before the police operation, the state government announced that it would not negotiate with the dissenters until they returned the vehicles and freed the streets in Morelia’s historic downtown, describing the pressure they were applying as “blackmail.”
On his Twitter account, Gov. Vallejo justified the police action by tweeting that “without violating university sovereignty, today we have acted according to the law.”
Those under arrest were driven in trucks to the installations of the state Attorney General’s Office, where dozens of them were attended by paramedics before they were booked.
Thousands of Morelia inhabitants have shown their support for the state government on various social networks, since the students living in the hostels are continuously blockading streets, seizing cars and paralyzing the UMSNH to demand funds and passing grades for those who have failed the entrance exam.
Michoacan has 35 student hostels that receive government subsidies and where some 5,000 UMSNH students live, most of them from other states.
At the beginning of every school year, CUL and MAR influence more than 50,000 UMSNH students to paralyze the different faculties as a way of negotiating the acceptance of would-be students who were denied admission to the university.