Ex-Student Leaders File Charges against Former President Luis Echeverria & Other Officials for 1971 Massacre

SourceMex Economic News & Analysis on Mexico, June 19, 2002 | Go to article overview
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Ex-Student Leaders File Charges against Former President Luis Echeverria & Other Officials for 1971 Massacre


Student leaders who survived a violent government crackdown in 1971 have brought formal charges against ex- President Luis Echeverria Alvarez (1970-1976) and other key officials for their role in repressing the protests.

In two separate complaints, ex-student leaders Jesus Martin del Campo, Raul Alvarez Garin, Enrique Condes Lara, and Pablo Gomez Alvarez accused Echeverria, former interior secretary Mario Moya Palencia, ex-Mexico City mayor Alfonso Rodriguez Dominguez, and other officials of dispatching a special force of riot police to violently repress a student demonstration in Mexico City.

The complaints were brought before the office of special prosecutor Ignacio Carrillo (Fiscalia Especial para Movimientos Sociales y Politicos del Pasado). Carrillo's office was established earlier this year to investigate human rights violations during the government's "dirty war" on suspected leftists (see SourceMex, 2002-01-06).

The 1971 crackdown, known as Corpus Thursday (Jueves de Corpus), occurred on Thursday, June 10, of that year. On that date, thousands of protestors from four universities in the Mexico City area held a march to the Zocalo to demand an end to the federal government's repression against students at the Universidad Autonoma de Nuevo Leon (UANL) in Monterrey. The UANL students were protesting a plan to privatize higher education in the state.

Elite police unit accused of vicious attacks on protestors

The participants in the Mexico City protest were met by dozens of members of a special unit known as the Halcones, or Falcons, who attacked the crowds with tear gas, pistols, machine guns, and batons. The student protestors say dozens of their fellow students died at the hands of the Halcones. The government initially denied the existence of the elite unit and then said there were no deaths in the incident.

Even though the vicious attacks on the protestors was clearly documented in the media and in police transcripts, no one in the government was charged in the case.

In presenting one of the complaints to special prosecutor Carrillo, Condes produced a transcript of radio conversations between city police and Halcones, signed eyewitness testimonies, and a list of known dead. He said his organization, Reflexion Abierta, compiled the documents after a lengthy search through police files in 1975.

Both complaints presented to Carrillo's office place the blame directly on the shoulders of former President Echeverria.

"Echeverria is clearly responsible," said del Campo. "The presidency was a virtual monarchy. The Halcones could not have been formed without his knowledge."

The 1971 incident occurred just three years after the infamous Tlatelolco student massacre in 1968, where government forces killed scores of protestors. At that time, Echeverria was interior secretary under then President Gustavo Diaz Ordaz (1964-1970).

The government also attempted to cover up its role in the Tlatelolco massacre, but reports compiled by human rights organizations and even the government-affiliated Comision Nacional de Derechos Humanos (CNDH) offer evidence that the attacks on protestors were orchestrated at the highest levels of government (see SourceMex, 1998-10-17 and 2002-02-06).

The center-left Partido de la Revolucion Democratica (PRD) has joined the former student leaders in denouncing Echeverria and the other officials and demanding that President Vicente Fox's administration respond promptly to the complaints. Some former student leaders have served in public office as members of the PRD. Del Campo was a member of the federal Chamber of Deputies and the Mexico City government. Gomez Alvarez is currently the PRD representative in the Instituto Federal Electoral (IFE), Mexico's elections watchdog.

Echeverria's party, the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI), had no official reaction to the complaints.

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Ex-Student Leaders File Charges against Former President Luis Echeverria & Other Officials for 1971 Massacre
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