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Investigator Says Officials Not Involved In Peasant Massacre

February 28, 1996

MEXICO CITY (AP) _ In a decision that outraged rights activists, a special investigator has cleared the governor of Guerrero and other state officials of blame in the 1995 massacre of 17 peasants by Guerrero state police.

The opposition Democratic Revolution Party said it would demand that the case be reopened.

Prosecutor Oscar Alejandro Varela Vidales told a special session of Congress on Tuesday that ineptitude caused police to kill 17 peasants on June 28, 1995.

The peasants, members of the radical Southern Sierra Campesino Organization, were en route to a protest rally when they were shot near Coyuca de Benitez, an hour north of the Pacific Acapulco resort.

``There were several factors that caused the incident ... but the fundamental causes were the ineptitude and poor training of police,″ he said in comments carried by the official Notimex news agency.

Human rights groups, however, say Gov. Ruben Figueroa Alcocer and his top security officials may have ordered police to stop the peasants from reaching the rally, and then covered up evidence of deliberate police action.

``The decision is clearly premature,″ said federal deputy Oscar Gonzalez Yanez, the chairman of the congressional committee following the case. ``Unless some evidence has come to light that we don’t know about there are not yet grounds to exonerate the governor,″ he told the Mexico City Times.

The mayor of Coyuca de Benitez, Maria de la Luz Nunez Ramos, reported getting a call from the governor on the eve of the killings saying the demonstration must be stopped ``at any cost.″ She also said the governor called her up two hours after the massacre to boast about it.

Varela Vidales blamed former assistant police chief for ignoring the governor’s orders to negotiate with peasants in the region. The officer, Rosendo Armijo de los Santos, is currently being prosecuted.

Human rights groups have criticized Figueroa for personally appointing the three special investigators, despite the fact he was a central figure in the case, and said more than 60 witnesses were never called to testify.

Investigators had been shown a videotape of the massacre that contained several cuts and alterations, the government’s National Human Rights Commission determined last year.

Varela Vidales closed the case two days after an unaltered version of the tape was shown on television.

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