washingtonpost.com  > World > Americas > North America > Mexico > Post

Mexico to Seek Genocide Charges Against Officials in 1968 Massacre

By Kevin Sullivan
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, January 14, 2005; Page A16

MEXICO CITY, Jan. 13 -- The special prosecutor investigating murders and disappearances of people during Mexico's "dirty war" said Thursday that he would seek genocide charges against about 25 former government and military officials in connection with the Oct. 2, 1968, massacre of protesters in Mexico City's Tlatelolco Plaza.

Ignacio Carrillo Prieto, in an interview with foreign reporters, said those officials "could include" Luis Echeverria, who was president from 1970 to 1976 and interior minister, the second-most-powerful office in the country, during what became known as the Tlatelolco Massacre.

Carrillo Prieto said that in the coming months he would seek to charge as many as 75 former officials with genocide in the disappearances and murders of about 500 people in the government's campaign of repression against students, democracy activists and other protesters between the late 1960s and the early 1980s.

The Tlatelolco Massacre, which became a powerful symbol of the abuses of Mexico's authoritarian governments, resulted in the deaths of numerous young activists just before Mexico hosted the 1968 Olympic Games.

The government said about 30 people died in the massacre, but human rights groups and others said the number was much higher. They also charged that the killings were committed by soldiers and gunmen working on behalf of the government and that Echeverria was involved in ordering the killings. The reclusive former president, who will turn 83 this month, has denied the allegations.

Carrillo Prieto, appointed by President Vicente Fox in January 2002, attempted last year to charge Echeverria and 11 other former officials with genocide in a 1971 massacre in which about 30 student protesters in Mexico City were killed by security forces.

However, the judge in that case refused to issue arrest warrants, saying Mexico's 30-year statute of limitations on genocide had expired. The federal attorney general, for whom Carrillo works, has appealed that decision to the Supreme Court, which has yet to rule.

Carrillo Prieto said he would file the new genocide charges regardless of the Supreme Court's verdict on the appeal. He said that in Mexico, unlike in the United States, the Supreme Court's ruling would cover only the case at hand and would not establish a precedent.

Some critics have accused Carrillo Prieto of over-reaching by trying to charge Echeverria and the others with genocide. But the prosecutor argued that international law defines genocide as a systematic attempt to eliminate any ethnic, religious or national group, and that Echeverria and other former officials systematically used the power of the state to try to exterminate political dissidents.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company