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Seven Killed Amid Resurgent Tension in Chiapas

January 11, 1995

CHICOMUSELO, Mexico (AP) _ About 300 peasants stormed the town hall of a remote village in southern Mexico, setting off violence that killed the police chief, his deputy and five other people, police said.

The peasants held the Chicomuselo town hall in southern Chiapas state for about 13 hours Tuesday before police drove them out with tear gas and bullets.

Government helicopters flew overhead and about 150 armed and helmeted state police surrounded the area Tuesday night.

The confrontation was the most violent of several demonstrations staged Tuesday to demand that Mexico’s government recognize Amado Avendano, who lost an August election for governor of Chiapas. Avendano and his supporters claim he lost because of vote fraud by the ruling party candidate.

Tensions are high in Chiapas, where Zapatista National Liberation Army rebels launched a rebellion a year ago to demand improved living conditions and basic rights for impoverished Indian peasants. At least 145 people were killed before a cease-fire was declared 12 days later.

The renewed unrest in Chiapas poses a serious challenge to the new government of President Ernesto Zedillo, who is also trying to rein in Mexico’s plunging peso and falling stock market.

Other protesters took over the town hall of Frontera Comalapa, 15 miles to the east. They remained in control of the building Tuesday night, said the Fray Bartolome de las Casas Human Rights Center in San Cristobal de las Casas.

Elsewhere, protesters armed with machetes and sticks barricaded the highway 20 miles southeast of San Cristobal.

Opposition activist Cesar Espinosa said police provoked the violence in Chicomuselo.

``The town hall takeover was to have been peaceful. But the police had already been alerted and fired on the demonstrators,″ Espinosa told reporters.

Two protest leaders belonging to a peasant organization backing Avendano were shot and killed by police when the demonstrators stormed the building.

The protesters took police chief Hernan Sepulveda Fernandez and his deputy, Moises Ramirez Ramos, hostage.

Sepulveda was hung by his feet and beaten before being shot three times in the back, police spokesman Pedro Cordoba Escobar said. His deputy was hacked to death with machetes.

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