[IWAR] MEXICO charges of cover-up

From: Michael Wilson (MWILSON/0005514706at_private)
Date: Sat Dec 27 1997 - 09:44:30 PST

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                        Charges of coverup after Mexico massacre
          Copyright ) 1997 Nando.net
          Copyright ) 1997 The Associated Press
       SAN CRISTOBAL DE LAS CASAS, Mexico (December 27, 1997 01:48 a.m. EST
       http://www.nando.net) -- Trying to allay the suspicions of an angry
       public, Mexico's attorney general has blamed the massacre of 45 Indian
       villagers on a 60-year-old family feud.
       Sixteen men were charged Friday with multiple murder and other felonies,
       but that hasn't dampened the growing public outrage.
       Opposition party leaders, Roman Catholic clergy and civic groups are
       demanding the Chiapas state government resign. They claim Gov. Julio
       Cesar Ruiz Ferro was warned a massacre was taking place but failed to do
       anything. Some say his government even tried to cover it up.
       The 16 men were charged late Friday with first degree murder,
       kidnapping, causing bodily injuries, criminal association and illegal
       possession of firearms. Two underage suspects were sent to a juvenile
       court. Another 24 men have been detained without charges.
       According to witnesses, at least two dozen men, all wearing ski masks
       and blue or black uniforms, opened fire Monday in the highlands village
       of Acteal. Many had high-caliber weapons, including AK-47s.
       Seven men, 20 women and 18 children, including one infant, died in the
       five-hour killing spree. Four of the women killed were pregnant. Almost
       all of the victims were shot in the back.
       Survivors said the killers were members of paramilitary forces aligned
       with Mexico's ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI.
       Attorney General Jorge Madrazo read a statement Friday night saying the
       conflict has roots in local family disputes going back to the 1930s.
       "These conflicts can be accurately characterized as intercommunal, and
       even interfamily," Madrazo said. They take place in a context of
       constant struggle for political and economic power complicated by
       religious and ideological differences, he added.
       He said the investigation was not complete, but did not mention any
       possible involvement of state officials. He did not say who he believed
       ordered the attack. And he refused to answer questions.
       Catholic Church leaders and opposition politicians, as well as many
       survivors, blame government sympathizers for the attack because the
       people in Acteal sympathized with the Zapatista National Liberation Army
       Not only that, but months back they displaced local village authorities,
       elected their own village councils and declared the villages
       "autonomous" and outside state law.
       Chiapas Bishop Samuel Ruiz and Auxiliary Bishop Raul Vera told reporters
       they have been warning Mexico's Interior Secretary Emilio Chauyffet for
       months about tension in the region, the presence of paramilitary groups
       and growing violence.
       Chauyffet said Friday that many of those warnings turned out to be
       Chiapas state secretary Homero Tovilla admitted that Roman Catholic
       priests called him to report gunfire in Acteal about 11:30 a.m. Monday.
       Tovilla claimed he called the local police station, which told him there
       was no evidence of violence.
       But survivors and at least one state worker say state police troopers
       were at the scene from early on in the massacre.
       Alberto Chan, a civil defense official, told The Associated Press that
       he was driving on a road to Acteal at 11 a.m. Monday when a state police
       official stopped him and told him it was too dangerous to continue.
       "They told me I couldn't go any farther because there was a shootout,"
       he said.
       Ruiz Ferro insisted police wouldn't have known about the massacre
       because the closest station was four miles from Acteal, making it
       impossible for them to hear the gunshots. A police outpost in the
       village of Mojaumut is just a mile away.
       The newspaper La Jornada cited witnesses Friday as saying that police
       tried to cover up the massacre, digging graves to hide the bodies, then
       rushing them off to the state capital for autopsies.
       Monday's attack was the deadliest in Chiapas since the Zapatista rebels
       rose up in January 1994, demanding respect for the human rights of
       indigenous peoples throughout Mexico and better living conditions for
       the poor Indians of Chiapas, who are more than two-thirds of the state's
       The massacre reinforced skepticism about the federal government's
       efforts to revive peace talks with the Zapatista rebels and put federal
       officials all the way up to President Ernesto Zedillo on the defensive.
       President Clinton, leaders of the European Union and Latin American
       heads of state all have condemned the massacre and demanded a prompt
       investigation and punishment for those reponsible.
       By MARK STEVENSON, Associated Press Writer

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