Former Mexican Prosecutor Implicates Ex-President Zedillo as Responsible for Acteal Massacre

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. Leza’s 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

massacre’s 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. Zedillo’s participation and approval.”

According to the lawsuit, the Acteal Massacre sprang from the Zedillo

government’s 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 Zedillo’s role before and

during the Acteal Massacre.

At the time of the massacre, Leza was General Director of

Inter-Institutional Coordination, representing the Attorney General’s

Office in inter-departmental meetings with the Secretariat of National

Defense and the Center of Investigation and National Security (“CISEN”),

Mexico’s security service, concerning the Zapatista uprising in Chiapas,

which began several months before Zedillo began his presidency in

November 1994.

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

CISEN’s General Director, Jorge Tello Peon; CISEN’s Director of

Protection, Rear Admiral Wilfrido Robledo Madrid; National Defense

Secretary’s personal secretary, General Tomas Angeles Dahuare; and

National Defense’s 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.

Leza’s 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 Secretariat’s

plans to eliminate the Polho checkpoint. Leza also expressed concern

over the Defense Secretariat’s participation in the subsequent

investigation. Leza’s superiors in the Attorney General’s 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.

Kobert’s 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. Leza’s declarations, a copy of

the Complaint, and certain key documents and photographs can be found at