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Mexico President Praises Military

February 20, 2002

MEXICO CITY (AP) _ After opening Mexico’s army to unprecedented scrutiny, President Vicente Fox on Tuesday praised the military’s loyalty and indicated that civilian leaders were mainly to blame for past abuses.

Even so, Mexico’s defense minister, Gen. Gerardo Vega Garcia, made an unusually open reference to military discontent with investigations into the so-called ``dirty war″ of the of the 1970s, and the 1968 massacre of demonstrators in Mexico City.

Fox recently ordered investigations into allegations that troops and police agencies kidnapped and killed hundreds of suspected guerrillas or leftists.

Late last month, the Supreme Court ruled that prosecutors also must investigate the 1968 police and army massacre of student demonstrators, even if the statute of limitations has expired.

The government at the time claimed that 24 died, but witnesses described a blood bath and most historians say about 300 students were killed.

In both cases, civilian and military leaders have never clearly explained what happened.

``We cannot adopt one-sided interpretations of historical episodes to which our army has been linked,″ Fox said during an Army Day breakfast at a military camp outside Mexico City.

He said soldiers had acted ``in subordination to the decisions of civilian agencies.″

Fox appeared to be blaming former presidents Gustavo Diaz Ordaz, now dead, and Luis Echeverria, or senior officials under them.

Fox praised the military for its nonpartisanship and for the ``military virtues of loyalty, obedience, patriotism and sense of duty.″

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