Sun, Feb 13, 2005 - Page 1 News List

Special prosecutor lining up genocide charges against Mexican ex-president

MASSACRE Federal authorities claim Luis Echeverria ordered an elite force of plain-clothes state fighters to eliminate reputed government enemies since 1971


A special prosecutor is seeking to have former Mexican president Luis Echeverria charged with genocide and has accused him of ordering government thugs to kill protesters during a 1971 demonstration, according to case files obtained by The Associated Press.

Federal authorities have prepared 691 pages of arguments and evidence in their quest to charge the 83-year-old ex-president, and maintain that Echeverria helped draw up elaborate plans to attack leftist, anti-government activists.

"In [Echeverria's] capacity as president, officials and public employees planned and participated in the execution of a series of acts with the aim of destroying totally or partially a national students' group," the documents say.

Echeverria, first as interior secretary in the 1960s and then as president, allegedly fought a decade-long counterinsurgency campaign against the student pro-democracy movement, as well as small and violent leftist guerrilla groups. He left office in 1976.

Prosecutors say he played at least an indirect role in ordering killings during a Mexico City march on June 10, 1971 now known as the "Corpus Christi massacre," after the day on the Roman Catholic calendar in which the deaths occurred. Estimates of those killed that day range from 11 to 50, but the exact death toll may never be known because relatives, survivors and reporters were intimidated.

The office of special prosecutor Ignacio Carrillo has attempted to formally charge Echeverria, but a judge refused to issue an arrest warrant, saying the statute of limitations on the killings had run out. The Supreme Court has agreed to review the matter.

Echeverria's lawyers say he was not involved in killings.

Prosecutors argue that from his first day in office on Dec. 1, 1970, Echeverria ordered an already existing, elite force of plain-clothed state fighters known as the "Halcones," or "Falcons," to crack down on reputed government enemies.

The files detail the Halcones' role in the killings, which saw state forces use sticks and guns to kill protesters during the demonstration.

A ruling by an institution in charge of applying a transparency in government law ordered Carrillo's office to turn 691 pages of its more than 9,000 pages of Echeverria files over to a civil organization, Mexico's Freedom of Information Group, last week.

The group then gave the files to the AP, two Mexican magazines and a US newspaper. Of the 691 pages, all but 121 had been partially or completely blacked out by prosecutors for security reasons.

The files detail the creation of the Halcones in 1966 by a military official on leave from the Mexican army, reporting that the group was ordered to keep watch on government buildings, subway stops, public parks and power stations in Mexico City to ensure they were not attacked by leftist guerrillas.

Carrillo has charged 11 people, including Echeverria, top former members of his government, and five members of the Halcones with ordering or participating in the beating or shooting deaths of 12 people during the demonstration.

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