Acteal Massacre Prison Terms Upheld
- News for Anarchists & Activists:
Prison terms in southern Mexico massacre upheld
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
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
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
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
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 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
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
"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.
Now available: _The Unspeakable and Others_
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News for Anarchists & Activists:
Said Smygo, the iconoclast of Zothique: "Bear a hammer with
thee always, and break down any terminus on which is
written: 'So far shalt thou pass, but no further go.'"
--Clark Ashton Smith