More Death in Chiapas - 1/31/1998
by Caroline Brothers

Death returned to the indigenous communities of Mexico's troubled Chiapas state on Saturday with the discovery of three Indian villagers hanged near the eastern town of Ocosingo, newspapers said. Separately, Ocasingo peasant leader Antonio Gomez Flores became Chiapas's second indigenous leader to die within 72 hours when a truck smashed into his car as he was leaving the funeral of Rubicel Ruiz Gamboa, an Indian peasant organizergunned down in an ambush on Wednesday.

Mexico's Jornada newspaper reported on Saturday that the bodies of three presumed sympathizers of Mexico's Zapatista rebels, including one Tzetzal Indian woman, had been found hanged in the municipality of Ocasingo, some 90 miles (150 km) from state capital Tuxtla Gutierrez.

Mexico's Attorney General Jorge Madrazo, in Tuxtla Gutierrez, confirmed the deaths and said investigations were under way.

National newspaper Reforma quoted state justice officials as saying the bodies were found in Arroyo Granizo, close to the Mayan ruins of Yaxchilan, in Ocosingo municipality.

News of the deaths comes as the impoverished state recovers from the December 1997 massacre of 45 Tzotzil Indians at the hands of paramilitary gunmen in the village of Acteal.

The murders shook the nation and provoked high-level resignations. Interior minister Emilio Chuayffet and state governor Julio Cesar Ruiz Ferro both quit in the fallout.

Newspapers quoted Madrazo as saying Ruiz Ferro would be asked to testify a second time as an investigation continues into responsibility for the worst killings since the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) staged an armed uprising against the government in 1994. Officials say 145 people died in that conflict.

Gomez Flores, a leader of the Rural Association of Collective Interests (ARIC), died in Tuxtla Gutierrez on Friday after he left Ruiz Gamboa's funeral in an accident commentators described as ``highly suspicious.''

A leader of the peasant and Indian umbrella group, the Democratic State Assembly of the People of Chiapas, Ruiz Gamboa was shot dead outside his home on Wednesday when armed assassins ambushed his car.

Mourners carried the bodies of both men to the doors of the governor's palace in Tuxtla Gutierrez, demanding punishment for those responsible, Jornada said.

State politicians from the left-wing Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) said both men had already been threatened.

``Both had received death threats, supposedly from groups of local power bosses and from ``Peace and Justice,'' the self-named self-defense group of the Institutional Revolutionary Party,'' Reforma quoted one of them as saying.

Peace and Justice is one of at least seven self-styled paramilitary groups that have sprung up in Chiapas since the EZLN's uprising, operating outside the law in the name of Mexico's ruling party. On Friday Washington criticized on-going politically motivated violence in Mexico's southern states, adding this threw a cloud over its human rights record.

Conflict in Chiapas: Understanding the Modern Mayan World
by Worth H. Weller, Ben Weller (Photographer), Julia Weller (Photographer)
$16.95, Paperback, March 1, 2000
Rebellion in Chiapas : An Historical Reader
by John Womack (Editor)
$14.36, Paperback , March 1999
Voices from Exile : Violence and Survival in Modern Maya History
by Victor Montejo
$18.17, Hardcover, October 1999
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