Posted by rdom on December 28, 1997 at 16:46:25:
In Reply to: Marcos Marcos blames Mexican president for slaughter of Indians posted by Marcos Victor O. Story on December 28, 1997 at 13:59:43:
SAN CRISTOBAL DE LAS CASAS, Mexico (Reuters) - The bodies of
45 Mexican Indians gunned down in a pre-Christmas massacre may
have been laid to rest, but controversy about what happened will
not be so easily buried.
On Friday Mexico's Federal Public Prosecutor Jorge Madrazo
announced that 16 people had been formally arrested in
connection with Monday's slaughter by paramilitary gunmen with
He said the deaths of the Tzotzil Indian victims, who
included 14 children and 21 women, four of whom were pregnant,
were the result of a family feud over power that had raged for
years in the heart of this impoverished coffee-growing state.
But human rights observers and national politicians in the
old colonial capital of San Cristobal de las Casas, about 45
miles southwest of Acteal, where the bloodbath occurred, poured
scorn on that explanation.
``This whole story of a family feud is a supposition they
are using to hide what is happening here,'' said Hugo Trujillo,
a leader of the umbrella human rights body Coordinator of
Nongovernmental Organizations for Peace.
``I reject it totally,'' he said.
Patria Jimenez Flores, federal deputy for the left-wing
Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), was scathing. ``The
government is calling it a confrontation between communities,''
she said. ``It's not a confrontation, it's a massacre.''
Those seeking to explain this week's events in Chiapas have
a whole spectrum of disputes to choose from -- the region is
divided not only by family rivalry but by yawning rifts over
religion, poverty, power, ethnicity and land.
But the official explanation of a family feud raises more
questions than it answers.
The huge troop buildup evident Thursday, with the road to
Acteal's Chenalho municipality heaving with personnel carriers
officially there to protect the population, is an excessive
response to a family dispute, human rights activists said.
Nor does the idea of such a dispute explain how the killers
obtained AK-47 assault rifles, normally only army issue, and why
survivors said they were dressed in blue paramilitary uniforms.
Witnesses interviewed by Reuters on Friday described a
well-organized group headed by former soldiers who prayed for
success before setting out on their mission and returned
jubilant after the five-hour killing spree.
At least seven paramilitary groups, with names like Peace
and Justice, the Red Masks and the Indigenous Revolutionary
Anti-Zapatista Movement (MIRA), are said to exist in Chiapas and
to be army-trained.
They sprang up after a 1994 uprising by Zapatista rebels who
declared war on the Mexican state. The charismatic Subcommmander
Marcos led the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) into
battle for indigenous rights.
Scores of sympathetic villages cast off traditional
municipal control to declare themselves ``autonomous
communities.'' Dozens were in in mountainous Chenalho.
``This is not a family dispute, it's a strategy to weaken
support for the EZLN,'' one human rights worker said.
Pablo Romo Cedano, coordinator of the Fray Bartholome Center
for Human Rights, called it a low-intensity war by the
government. The PRD's Jimenez agreed.
``The government is trying to provoke a reaction from the
Zapatista Army, which until now has been very restrained,'' she
said. ``The massacre was very much aimed at provoking a
reaction, so they could bring in the army.''
The Mexican press has described the behavior of state Gov.
Julio Cesar Ruiz Ferro as negligent at best after his office
failed to act on two warning calls from Roman Catholic priest
The PRD says Ruiz is unfit to govern, but he told reporters
Thursday he had no plans to quit.
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