Page 16


Illustration by Jose Guadalupe Posada LAS AMERICAS Skeletal Justice BY JOHN ROSS ACAPULCO, GUERRERO In an unprecedented acknowledgment that its hands were sullied during the so-called “Dirty War” against 1970-era guerrilla bands, the Mexican military has issued arrest warrants for two generals who ran the army-police counterinsurgency campaign in this conflictive state and are thought responsible for the forced disappearance of hundreds of local farmers a generation ago. Francisco Quiroz and Mario Arturo Chaparro Acosta are charged with 143 counts of premeditated homicides between 1973 and 1979. Most of the dead are thought to have been sympathizers of guerrilla leader Lucio Cabanas, whose Party of the Poor had deep popular support along the Costa Grande of this Pacific state. In a macabre echo of Argentina’s dirty war, the generals are charged with dumping the victims from Mexican air force planes into the ocean. The issuance of arrest orders was initially hailed by human rights groups as a breakthrough. But a closer look sparks suspicions that the army has engineered a military coup to head off a widening civilian probe into responsibilities for dirty war atrocities. Indeed, trying the generals in a military court will preclude civilian prosecution, affirms special prosecutor Ignacio Carrillo Prieto, who was appointed by President Vicente Fox last year to delve into at least 275 civilian disappearances during the counter-insurgency campaign. Carrillo Prieto says that nearly a hundred more high-ranking military officers may be involved in the crimes, among them former Defense Secretary Enrique Cervantes, a childhood friend and fellow cadet of Quiroz who was also active in Guerrero and who apparently assured his protege’s promotion to brigadier general. Both Generals Quiroz and Chaparro are themselves the sons of generalsChaparro, who had a fearsome reputation for torturing suspected guerrilla fighters, is a graduate of the School of the Americas, a notorious ers, and the U.S. Center for Special Forces in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The arrests were announced on the eve of the annual commemoration of the October 2, 1968 army-perpetrated massacre of hundreds of striking students in Mexico City’s Tlatelolco housing complex. Chaparro is alleged to have been a member of an army unit responsible for opening fire at Tlatelolco. Carrillo Prieto’s probe of that watershed event, which has included interrogation of former president Luis Echeverria \(he declined to answer era civilian and military officials looking nervously over their shoulders.The military has always been sensitive about its participation in the killings, even forcing withdrawal of a grade school history text book that suggested army involvement. To further whet suspicions of a coup to derail the special prosecutor’s investi gation, chief military prosecutor Jaime Antonio Lopez Portillo also sent Fox’s attorney general, Rafael Macedo de La Concha, a list of 37 members of the military killed in confrontations with Cabanas’ Party of the Poor, along with continued on page 28 10125/02 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 15