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Protestants Arrested in Mexico

June 17, 1999

SAN CRISTOBAL DE LAS CASAS, Mexico (AP) _ Thirteen Protestants who angered residents of an Indian village in southern Mexico by trying to build a new church have been arrested, officials said today.

The group was arrested Tuesday in Mitziton, about 10 miles southeast of San Cristobal de las Casas, said Gustavo Moscoso Zeneteno, Chiapas state secretary for Indian affairs.

They were turned over to local authorities in neighboring Flores Magon, where they live.

The arrests were another episode in a long history of religious conflict in the region.

Many residents see their unique mixture of Catholicism and traditional Maya Indian beliefs as crucial to their survival as a culture. Hundreds of people in Mitziton and Flores Magon held meetings to demand the Protestants be expelled from their communities.

Tens of thousands of Protestant converts _ and some Roman Catholics _ have been expelled from their villages, often with violence, over the past 20 years in Chiapas, Mexico’s southernmost state.

Moscoso said the state government would try to block the expulsions and he said the state Attorney General’s Office had begun an investigation into the action of the local authorities.

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