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Two Demonstrators Killed Amid Resurgent Tension in Chiapas

January 11, 1995

CHICOMUSELO, Mexico (AP) _ Six people, including a police chief and his deputy, were killed Tuesday after some 300 peasants stormed the town hall in this remote Chiapas village, police said.

Police chief Hernan Sepulveda Fernandez was shot three times in the back, while deputy Moises Ramirez Ramos was hacked to death by machete-wielding protesters after both were taken hostage before dawn.

During a day marked alternately by confrontations and attempts at negotiations, four others, including two peasant protesters and a bystander, also were killed, said police spokesman Pedro Cordoba Escobar.

Hundreds of farmworkers also blocked a highway near here to demand that Mexico’s government recognize Amado Avendano, a failed opposition candidate for Chiapas governor.

Avendano claims he was cheated out of an Aug. 21 election victory through vote fraud.

The separate protests marked a resurgence of tension in Chiapas, where a year-old rebellion by the Zapatista National Liberation Army still smolders despite recent peace overtures.

The Indian demonstrators, armed with machetes and sticks, barricaded a highway 20 miles southeast of San Cristobal de las Casas on a major route to the southern Chiapas city of Comitan.

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.

Espinosa said the dead and wounded were still inside the town hall. Earlier reports said six other policemen were being held hostage, but there was no confirmation or news on their condition.

About 130 police were posted outside the town hall late Tuesday. Espinosa said peasants were worried that armed cattle ranchers might intervene.

Ranchers in the region have armed themselves with automatic rifles to oppose a series of land takeovers by peasants emboldened by the guerrilla uprising.

Occasional deaths have been reported in confrontations between landowners and peasants over the past months.

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