Mexico dirty war
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02 Oct 2003 21:00:49 GMT
rpt-Mexico 'dirty war' probes make little headway
(Repeats to add dropped word in line 52.)
By Lorraine Orlandi
MEXICO CITY, Oct 2 (Reuters) - As Mexicans marched on Thursday to commemorate one of the country's worst massacres, rights activists said a campaign by President Vicente Fox to probe past atrocities had generated more criticism than results.
Fox was seen as a hero for Mexican democracy when he was elected in 2000 after 71 years of one-party rule and in January 2002 named a special prosecutor for "dirty war" crimes by the security forces in the 1960s to the 1980s.
But no suspects have been brought to trial and the most high-profile human rights case - the killing of students at Mexico City's Tlatelolco square exactly 35 years ago - has gone unpunished.
"The prosecutor is working as a propaganda show for the government of Fox and not for truth and justice," said Rosario Ibarra, 76, a leading rights activist.
Ibarra's son is believed to have been kidnapped, tortured and murdered by police in 1975. His body was never found.
"They are violating the law just as they did when they kidnapped our children," she said. "This is complicity by Fox with the former presidents and the army."
The special prosecutor, Ignacio Carrillo, insisted he would get to the bottom of kidnapping, disappearances and murders, most of them carried out by the army and police forces.
"I will not be an instrument for deferring justice," Carrillo told Reuters. "Any transition assumes setting straight past accounts. Or you send the message that power has privileges, privileges against the citizens," he said.
Mexican security forces under the long-ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party are blamed for a violent campaign against leftist insurgents and activists, though the violence never reached the level of crackdowns by military dictatorships in Argentina and Chile.
Carrillo said he would file charges by early next year in the Oct. 2, 1968, massacre of anti-government student protesters in Mexico City, a seminal event seen as emblematic of the dirty war.
Activists say up to 300 died at the hands of government snipers in the protest at Tlatelolco square 35 years ago. The official death toll was around 30. As every year, marchers paraded in the capital's streets to commemorate the incident.
Carrillo, a 56-year-old legal scholar, says his work has been hampered by lack of cooperation from some areas of government, public apathy, scarce resources and skepticism among victims and family members.
Fox publicly backed his work in a state of the nation address last month, calling for the truth from the dirty war to be revealed in "the recovery of historic memory" and said justice must be done to consolidate Mexico's democracy.
Last year, Carrillo called ex-President Luis Echeverria for questioning, although the former leader from the 1970s invoked his right not to make a statement.
Among the most notorious alleged rights abusers was Miguel Nazar Haro, the former boss of a now defunct police unit whom Carrillo charged with kidnapping Ibarra's son, Jesus Piedra, in 1975.
It was Carrillo's first and only attempt to prosecute so far and a judge threw it out, ruling the case had exceeded the statute of limitations. The Supreme Court is reviewing the decision.
Family members and survivors see a lack of will on Fox's part to confront the powers responsible for past abuse.