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Acteal Massacre Prison Terms Upheld

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  • Dan Clore
    News for Anarchists & Activists: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/smygo Prison terms in southern Mexico massacre upheld Associated Press Nov. 14, 2002 07:50 AM
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 15, 2002
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      News for Anarchists & Activists:

      Prison terms in southern Mexico massacre upheld

      Associated Press
      Nov. 14, 2002 07:50 AM

      SAN CRISTOBAL DE LAS CASAS, Mexico - A judge has upheld
      36-year prison sentences for 18 paramilitary fighters
      convicted of gunning down Zapatista rebel sympathizers in
      1997, court authorities and human rights groups said.

      In a ruling issued late Tuesday, federal appeals court judge
      Freddy Gabriel Alinzo refused to strike down prison
      sentences against 18 farmers from Chenalho, a village in
      southernmost Chiapas state.

      In April, the group was convicted of storming into the
      nearby village of Acteal on Dec. 22, 1997, and killing six
      men, 21 woman and 18 children who were members of the Roman
      Catholic community group Las Abejas, an organization
      sympathetic to the Zapatista cause.

      The court ruled that the killers were angered by an ongoing
      territorial dispute between farmers in Acteal and Chenalho.
      The decision also mentioned the possibility that the gunmen
      had ties to local chapters of the Institutional
      Revolutionary Party, which controlled Mexico's presidency
      from 1929 until President Vicente Fox took office in
      December 2000.

      In his decision, Alinzo stated that a land dispute was the
      motive for the attack.

      The mass killing was the worst of a series of bloody clashes
      between pro- and anti-rebel groups in poor Indian
      communities across Chiapas since the Zapatistas' armed
      uprising in the name of socialism and Indians rights in
      January 1994.

      Silvia Aguilera, director of the Mexican Commission for the
      Defense and Promotion of Human Rights, said Wednesday that
      her group was pleased by the judge's decision, but that
      prosecutors should have brought massacre-related charges
      against army commanders.

      "It leaves out the criminal responsibility of members of the
      army who had a base very near Acteal," Aguilera said.

      Human rights groups in Mexico City and San Cristobal de las
      Casas, Chiapas' largest city, agreed Wednesday that soldiers
      may have aided the gunmen.

      "They had army weapons," Aguilera said. "Everything seems to
      indicate they were aided by military officials."

      Army officials have refused to comment on the Acteal attack
      in the nearly five years since it occurred.

      The News Mexico

      Prison sentences for Chiapas paramilitaries not enough, say
      rights groups

      Ioan Grillo, The News Staff - 11/14/2002

      Human rights groups on Wednesday welcomed the latest prison
      sentences dished out to perpetrators of a bloody massacre in
      Chiapas, but complained the intellectual authors of the
      crime are walking scott free.

      On Tuesday, a federal judge sent 19 indigenous men to prison
      for 36 years and three months each for taking part in one of
      the worst slaughters in the nation's recent history: the
      murder of 45 campesinos, mostly women and children, in the
      village of Acteal in 1997.

      The victims allegedly sympathized with the leftist National
      Zapatista Liberation Army (EZLN), while the perpetrators
      allegedly belonged to the Peace and Justice paramilitary
      force linked to the then-ruling Institutional Revolutionary
      Party (PRI).

      With the latest convictions, there are a total of 77 people
      in jail for the massacre. However, human rights advocates
      say prosecutors have not gone after the people who ordered
      the slayings.

      "The men who physically carried out these barbarous acts are
      behind bars. But they have not investigated the role of the
      state in the murders," said Sylvia Aguilera, Director of the
      Mexican Commission for the Promotion and Defense of Human
      Rights (CMPDH).

      The CMPDH and other non-governmental organizations say there
      is abundant evidence the Army collaborated in the Acteal

      They allege the killers used military-issue rifles and had
      Army training. What's more, they say soldiers stationed
      nearby made no attempt to stop the bloodshed, which lasted
      for more than four hours.

      "There hasn't been an adequate investigation because the
      Army is untouchable," said Aguilera.

      Aguilera said the high-profile investigation into the role
      of police and military officers in the so-called "Dirty War"
      of the 1970s does not mean the Army has become accountable.

      "The accused officers only will be tried by other soldiers
      in military courts. They should be tried in civilian courts
      as international human rights groups have recommended," said

      Human rights groups also would like to see an investigation
      into Julio Cesar Ruiz, the Chiapas governor at the time of
      the Acteal massacre. Under Ruiz, the Chiapas state
      government gave 4.6 million pesos to the Peace and Justice
      paramilitary group for an agricultural program and then
      ignored reports they were stockpiling firearms.

      The EZLN itself blames the massacre on then-president
      Ernesto Zedillo.

      "The direct responsibility for these bloody events falls
      upon Ernesto Zedillo and the Interior Secretariat
      (Gobernacion), who, two days ago, gave a green light to a
      counter-insurgency project presented by the Army," the EZLN
      said in a statement the day after the killings.

      Following the Acteal slaughter, 10,000 campesinos fled their
      homes, and only 3,000 have returned.

      Political violence in the highlands of Chiapas continues.


      Dan Clore

      Now available: _The Unspeakable and Others_
      All my fiction through 2001 and more. Intro by S.T. Joshi.

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