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Five peasants killed in attempted land invasion in Mexico

June 11, 1997

SAN CRISTOBAL DE LAS CASAS, Mexico (AP) _ Five peasants were killed while attempting to invade a farm belonging to one of the leading political families of the southeastern state of Chiapas, officials said.

The deaths are a reflection of the rural violence that has threatened to upset July 6 elections in Chiapas and further block peace talks with leftist guerrillas.

Peasants belonging to the militant Independent Center of Agricultural Workers and Peasants, attempted Sunday to occupy the farm in the remote county of Pueblo Nuevo Solistahuacan, county president Carlos Rojas Suarez said. The county is about 35 miles northwest of San Cristobal de las Casas.

Farm owner Pacifico Rojas Lopez and his employees apparently attacked the would-be squatters, Rojas Suarez said Tuesday. State police occupied the farm and were investigating the incident.

Three of the dead were identified as Santiago Hernandez, Arcado Lopez Silvano and Romeo Gomez Rodas. The other two victims were not identified.

All five are from the village of Rivera Santa Rita, which has been petitioning the government since 1988 to cede it land from the nearby farm.

Pacifico Rojas is the brother of Valdemar Rojas Lopez, the former mayor of the state capital of Tuxtla Gutierrez and currently a senatorial candidate for the center-right National Action Party. His nephew Francisco Rojas is a state congressman for National Action.

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