Police raids spark street violence

Car windows smashed and taxis attacked
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The Independent US

Youths smashed car windows and attacked passing taxis and buses yesterday in a violent response to the second police raid in four months on illegal markets in a tough Mexico City neighbourhood. No major injuries were reported.

Youths smashed car windows and attacked passing taxis and buses yesterday in a violent response to the second police raid in four months on illegal markets in a tough Mexico City neighbourhood. No major injuries were reported.

Many of the vandals, the majority of them minors, were bodyguards for sellers of black market merchandise in the city's Tepito neighbourhood, the government news agency Notimex reported. Over 40 people were arrested on suspicion of property damage and causing injuries.

The violence erupted after an early-morning raid by 2,000 federal police officers looking for stolen goods and illegally smuggled contraband routinely sold by vendors in the huge marketplace of the Tepito neighbourhood.

Television broadcasts yesterday showed police uncovering stacked boxes of illegal electronics and later filmed youths jumping onto the hood and trunk of a passing car, smashing its windows and trying to pull the driver out onto the street.

The Federal Preventative Police reported they had seized appliances, clothing, video and audio tapes from 30 warehouses and storage areas in Tepito and a nearby neighbourhood, pending investigations into the origin and tax compliance of the merchandise.

There were no immediate estimates on the monetary value of the merchandise seized.

Since Aztec times, Tepito has been one of the city's principal commercial districts. Thousands of vendors hawk everything from stereos to soccer shirts in the warren-like streets, whose winding layout makes it hard for police to catch suspects.

Yesterday's confrontations did not appear as serious as those that followed a similar raid in November. Then, dozens were injured and a police officer was shot as residents rioted in the streets, hurled bricks and stones, set vehicles on fire and destroyed dozens of vendors' stalls.

In the November operations, officers seized more than US$300,000 in electronic goods and arrested 15 people, including nine police officers who were found allegedly protecting warehouses of stolen goods.

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