The trials of Ernesto Zedillo

The Economist, 9/1/2012

Former President Zedillo

By the time the shooting had finished, 45 men, women and children lay dead or dying deep in the jungle. The massacre at Acteal, a hamlet in Chiapas, was the worst single act of violence during the unrest that shook Mexico’s far south in the 1990s. Zapatista guerrillas had declared war on the federal government on New Year’s Day, 1994. The fighting was brief, but sympathisers on each side then used the conflict to settle differences over land, religion and much else. The government’s supposed ties to the killers who on December 22nd 1997 opened fire on Acteal, a place mainly sympathetic to the Zapatistas, have never been fully established.

Nearly 15 years later, the Acteal murders could be tried in a court 2,000 miles away in Connecticut. Ernesto Zedillo, who was Mexico’s president from 1994 to 2000, is now a professor at Yale University. His residence in the state has given ten Tzotzil-speaking Indians, who claim to be survivors of the 1997 massacre, an opportunity to sue him in a civil court in the United States. They are seeking about $50m and a declaration of guilt against Mr Zedillo.

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