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Mexico Leader Unveils Secret Files

June 19, 2002

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MEXICO CITY (AP) _ President Vicente Fox is releasing nearly 80 million secret intelligence files collected over decades, vowing that Mexico’s government will never again use spying and violence against its critics.

``We are burying impunity and the abuse of power once and for all,″ Fox said during the ceremony Tuesday at the National Archives _ a building once known as ``the Black Palace″ when it was the Lecumberri prison and held generations of political prisoners.

``Pressure, espionage and violence are not the tools we use in politics: dialogue and understanding are,″ said Fox, whose July 2000 election ended 71 years of uninterrupted rule by the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI.

The files collected by the military, government departments and a variety of police and intelligence agencies cover the period from 1952 to 1985 and mention about 3 million people.

They apparently range from security checks of government officials to reports on the torture and disappearance of hundreds suspected anti-government militants during the so-called ``dirty war,″ from the 1960s through the early 1980s.

They also may shed more light on incidents such as deadly government attacks on student demonstrators in 1968 and 1971.

``Terrible events such as those that are documented by these archives cannot occur again in our country,″ said Interior Secretary Santiago Creel.

The ceremony came a week after Fox signed a freedom of information law requiring all government agencies to provide copies of public documents within 20 days of any citizen’s request.

Creel argued that with steps such as those to open government, ``The temptation of absolute and arbitrary power will be forever eliminated.″

Both Fox and Creel portrayed the new openness as fulfillment of campaign promises to transform the secretive, murky practice of politics under PRI governments.

Creel said the files were ``the synthesis of an era that has now ended,″ one in which ``the pursuit of justice was always overridden by political interests.″

Fox earlier had the federal Human Rights Commission investigate _ and confirm _ the fact that hundreds of people, most of them suspected leftist rebels, vanished after being arrested.

He also named a special prosecutor to take action against torturers and murders.

Relatives of those killed by earlier governments have accused Fox of being too cautious, too afraid of confronting still-powerful forces in the military or in the PRI, whose large congressional delegation can block most of Fox’s legislation if it chooses.

``In no way are we going to cover up those who committed these crimes,″ Fox promised.

But he also warned against ``hurried judgments.″

``Certainly there are answers to give, but in the search for historical truth, there is no room for vengeance, paybacks or scandal,″ Fox said.

Most of the activists pressing for the government to prosecute those responsible for the ``dirty war″ stayed away from Tuesday’s ceremony.

Felipe Canseco, a former guerrilla who has tried to determine who tortured two of his imprisoned brothers in the past, said he feared the files would be cleansed of incriminating details.

He said a group of former leftist militants is forming a team to go through the files.

The special prosecutor, Ignacio Carrillo, insisted that his effort would stick to the law and avoid arbitrary judgments.

``What we condemn, we will not practice against anybody,″ he said.

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