A former Mexican federal prosecutor, in sworn testimony, has implicated
former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de Leon as directly
responsible for the 1997 slaughter of 45 children and adults in Acteal,
Former prosecutor Ariel Jesus Maldonado Leza gave two sworn statements
to Rafferty, Kobert, Tenenholtz, Bounds & Hess, P.A., the Miami-based
law firm representing 10 massacre survivors in a Connecticut federal
court suit filed in September 2011. Lezas declarations were filed with
the court today, in Jane Doe v. Zedillo, Case No. 11-CV-1433-AWT.
The victims seek damages for their relatives murders and their own
injuries, and want the U.S. court to declare Zedillo responsible for the
massacres planning, execution and cover-up.
Zedillo, president of Mexico from 1994 to 2000, now lives in New Haven,
Connecticut, where he teaches at Yale University. The lawsuit is based
on the Alien Tort Claim Act and the Torture Victim Protection Act, which
give jurisdiction to U.S. federal courts over such claims.
The suit accuses Zedillo with overseeing a scheme to suppress an
insurgency through illegal means, abusing government power and resources
through non-government proxies to allow plausible deniability of the
slaughter of unarmed, innocent civilians. The assailants paramilitary
groups armed and trained by Mexican military personnel shot or hacked
to death 45 unarmed indigenous civilians, plus four unborn fetuses,
while wounding dozens more, in the village of Acteal in remote southern
Mr. Leza corroborates other documents and accounts that implicate
officials at the highest levels of the Zedillo government with direct
knowledge and involvement in the Acteal Massacre, said plaintiffs
attorney Roger Kobert. Given these highest level discussions, including
foreknowledge by the Mexican Attorney General, this operation not to
mention the ensuing coverup could not conceivably have taken place
without Mr. Zedillos participation and approval.
According to the lawsuit, the Acteal Massacre sprang from the Zedillo
governments implementation of the 1994 Chiapas Campaign Plan, a
secret Mexican government document outlining a plan to crush the
insurgent Zapatista movement of the 1990s. Central to that plan was the
creation and deployment of paramilitary and civilian forces to assist
military operations, including illegally arming civilians with military
weapons. The suit also alleges that Zedillo later conspired with
Attorney General Jorge Madrazo to cover up Zedillos role before and
during the Acteal Massacre.
At the time of the massacre, Leza was General Director of
Inter-Institutional Coordination, representing the Attorney Generals
Office in inter-departmental meetings with the Secretariat of National
Defense and the Center of Investigation and National Security (CISEN),
Mexicos security service, concerning the Zapatista uprising in Chiapas,
which began several months before Zedillo began his presidency in
Leza confirms in his sworn statements that he attended two meetings at
CISEN and the Defense Secretariat some two to three weeks before the
Acteal Massacre. Top officials of both branches were there, including
CISENs General Director, Jorge Tello Peon; CISENs Director of
Protection, Rear Admiral Wilfrido Robledo Madrid; National Defense
Secretarys personal secretary, General Tomas Angeles Dahuare; and
National Defenses Chief of Staff, General Juan Heriberto Salinas Altes.
At both meetings, with Leza present, Defense Secretariat representatives
declared unacceptable a highway checkpoint manned by Zapatista rebels in
Polho, near Acteal. The representatives vowed that elimination of the
Polho checkpoint and assumed bases of social support in Acteal was
required, despite being aware that Acteal village contained refugees.
Lezas reports on these meetings were delivered directly to Attorney
General Madrazo before the massacre.
After the Acteal Massacre, Leza advised his superiors of the apparent
connection between the Acteal Massacre and the Defense Secretariats
plans to eliminate the Polho checkpoint. Leza also expressed concern
over the Defense Secretariats participation in the subsequent
investigation. Lezas superiors in the Attorney Generals Office
instructed him to not get involved in the investigation. In his
statements, Leza further confirms the existence and application of the
1994 Chiapas Campaign Plan, which called for using paramilitaries in the
anti-Zapatista campaign. The Defense Secretariat has previously denied
the existence of that plan.
Koberts firm, along with the Hartford law firm of Matthew Dallas Gordon
LLC, represents 10 surviving massacre victims in the lawsuit against
Zedillo, alleging war crimes and other crimes against humanity. Rather
than face the charges brought against him, Zedillo has asked the U.S.
State Department to grant him immunity as a former head of state, hoping
to have the lawsuit dismissed. The State Department is expected to file
a Statement of Interest with the Connecticut court this Friday,
September 7, announcing its view as to whether Zedillo should be granted
head-of-state immunity from all charges related to the Acteal Massacre.
Additional information, including Mr. Lezas declarations, a copy of
the Complaint, and certain key documents and photographs can be found at acteal97.com.