December 29, 1997 in Nation/World

Mayor May Be Tied To Killings Activists Suspect Funds For Massacre Came From Mexican Government

Dallas Morning News

Government funds may have been diverted to finance the armed gang accused of gunning down 45 Tzotzil Indians last week, political and human rights activists said Saturday.

The latest sign that governing party members may have been involved in the massacre came with Saturday’s arrest of Jacinto Arias Cruz, mayor of the Chenalho municipality in Chiapas.

Arias, a member of the Institutional Ruling Party, or PRI, and other longtime residents of Chenalho have waged “constant dispute for political and economic power” in the region, Mexican Attorney General Jorge Madrazo said.

Arias, an outspoken foe of the Zapatista rebels in Chiapas, was arrested after police questioned him. He has not been charged with a crime, investigators said.

Human rights activists suspect that Arias and other family members have used political contacts to channel social development funds to villages that support the PRI. The money could then have been diverted to finance paramilitary activities, according to researchers at the Fray Bartolome Human Rights Center in the Chiapas town of San Cristobal de las Casas.

If such a diversion took place, political analysts said, the PRI’s leadership wouldn’t have known about or approved such a scheme.

“The PRI, at a national or state level, would have nothing to gain by killing these Indians,” said Peter Ward, a political scientist at the University of Texas at Austin.

But a band of PRI extremists may have been trying to get the party’s attention, Ward said.

Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email