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Friday, March 19, 1999 Published at 05:07 GMT

World: Americas

Million strong march in Mexico City

Many marchers wore Zapatista style face masks

By Mexico Correspondent Peter Greste

For Mexico City's 20 million residents, demonstrations have become a fact of life but it's been a long time since they've had to face one on this scale.

With the help of an advertising campaign to publicise the protests, electricity workers and students managed to draw almost a million people into the central Zocolo Square.

The electricity workers and the opposition Revolutionary Democratic Party are protesting against plans to privatise their industry, whilst the students from the autonomous university are rebelling against the introduction of fees.

Governement blames oil prices

Although it's yet to respond to the latest demonstrations, the government has so far shrugged off the demands of both groups. It insists its empty coffers mean there's no way it can continue to subsidise higher education or electricity.

The government blames plunging oil prices for its latest problems. As one of the world's biggest oil exporters, any price shift affects it deeply.

But there's also a presidential election due early next year and unions, the opposition and the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party are expected to use every opportunity between now and then to score political points.

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