Image for representation
Image for representation
AFP

Authorities in the Mexican resort of Cancun were urged Tuesday to punish police who fired into the air to disperse a protest over the killings of women, but they disagreed over whether state or municipal police were to blame.

A journalist was among the unspecified number of people injured when protesters rushed to escape as the shots rang out. The UN Human Rights Office in Mexico said it "condemns the excessive use of force, including the use of firearms, in the demonstration." Around midnight Monday, Carlos Joaquin, governor of the Caribbean coast state of Quintana Roo, blamed Cancun municipal police, who he said fired shots into the air after protesters tried to break into the Cancun city hall.

Gov. Joaquin said he "completely condemned" the use of guns, adding the police had purportedly fired warning shots at city hall "to protect the physical safety of the employees who work there." He called on Cancun's mayor to fire the city police chief. Mayor Mara Lezama initially blamed state police and called their actions "improper, illegal and immoral." State police chief Alberto Capella denied his officers fired the shots.

Lezama later announced the city's police chief had been fired.

The Feminist Collective of Quintana Roo also called for Capella to be fired. Technically, city police are under the command of state forces.

The incident once again displayed Mexico's lack of experience in using less-than-lethal force. "At no time was any other method of dissuasion employed," said Lizbeth Lugo, of the feminist organization Siempre Unidas (Always United).

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador called on Gov. Joaquin to investigate.

"Action should be taken without hesitation," López Obrado said. "Force must not be used, weapons must not be used, opening fire, that is part of authoritarian attitudes that do not fit in the new era." Monday evening's demonstration was called to protest the recent killings of women in Quintana Roo, the state where Cancun is located. Earlier in the day, prosecutors announced that the body of a 20-year-old woman had been found in Cancun about two days after she went missing. A total of 58 women were killed in the state in the first nine months of the year, although the motive in most of the cases were not believed to be reasons of gender.

A video posted by the Quintana Roo Network of Journalists showed a throng of about 100 protesters at city hall during the protest. Some smashed windows and burned documents outside the building, while others were tearing down a plywood barrier at an entrance. A few shots are heard on the video, people begin running, and then bursts of gunfire are heard.

Gov. Joaquin had met with women's groups earlier Monday to promise no efforts would be spared in investigating the most recent killing. On Monday, Joaquin wrote in his Twitter account: "I gave orders that there be no attacks and no guns at the marches scheduled for today. I will investigate the irresponsible person who gave orders that contradicted that."

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