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Fox Vows Wider Probe of Past Rights Abuses

November 30, 2001|JAMES F. SMITH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

MEXICO CITY — Mexican President Vicente Fox said Thursday that his government's pursuit of officials responsible for the disappearance of hundreds of leftists in the 1970s and '80s is just a first step, vowing that he also intends to go after those responsible for more recent rights abuses.

Fox said his promised release of security and intelligence archives on rights abuses through 1985 will include those covering an army massacre of students in October 1968. Activists believe that several hundred people were killed.

Fox made his remarks in a press briefing on the same day that the National Human Rights Commission made public a report on the disappearance of 532 militants and guerrillas from 1970 to 1985. The report was formally handed to Fox on Tuesday, but technical problems delayed its release until Thursday.

The report found that police and other government agents were responsible for the illegal detention and apparent killing of at least 275 of those who had disappeared. The detailed accounts of each of the 532 documented cases in the report include chilling disclosures of torture and other abuse--but few details on how, where or when the victims actually were killed.

Fox on Tuesday ordered the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate those cases and bring charges where appropriate.

The president was asked Thursday whether he will take action on more recent cases, such as the slaying of 17 peasants by police at Aguas Blancas in Guerrero state in 1995 and the killing of 45 unarmed peasants in Acteal in Chiapas state in 1997. While a number of police and other officials have been prosecuted, many rights defenders contend that other, higher authorities were involved.

Fox replied: "The process is open to all of that. And yes, it will be open in the future, or as soon as they digest this challenge they have, to extend it to Aguas Blancas and Acteal and everything. We are fully committed to human rights and fully committed to the rule of law in Mexico."

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