A prosecutor handling the case of an Indigenous town beset by violence has himself been killed in the southern Mexico state of Chiapas.
The state attorney general’s office said prosecutor Gregorio Pérez Gómez was found shot to death in his car on a street in the state capital, Tuxtla Gutierrez, late Tuesday, August 10th.
Pérez Gómez’s body had six bullet wounds. The office did not say whether his death may have been linked to his work in the township of Pantelho, where a group of self-described vigilantes has been fighting what it claims are drug traffickers.
In July, a couple of hundred armed men descended on Pantelho, burned vehicles and at least a dozen homes, vandalized the town hall and abducted 21 people. That conflict had caused hundreds of Indigenous residents to flee.
Earlier this month, about 370 people who had fled the confrontations returned to villages in the township, according to a local priest. The Rev. Marcelo Pérez said the villagers had agreed to return after government-sponsored peace talks began.
Officials say a newly formed vigilante group called “El Machete,” has formed armed brigades, pledging to fight the incursion of drug cartels in the largely Indigenous mountain communities of Chiapas.
The vigilantes, who appear to include members of the Tzotzil Indigenous group, are calling themselves a “self-defense force,” a phenomenon seen for years in some western Mexican states.
After El Machete announced its presence last month, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said he would not accept the presence of the so-called self-defense forces, which have often themselves been allied with criminal gangs.
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