Indigenous prosecutor killed in southern Mexico

San Cristóbal de las Casas (Mexico) (AFP) –


An indigenous Mexican prosecutor investigating violent events linked to the emergence of a vigilante group in the southern state of Chiapas has been killed, the state attorney's office said Tuesday.

Gregorio Perez Gomez was found dead Tuesday evening in his car on an avenue in San Cristobal de las Casas, the Chiapas prosecutor's office said in a statement.

The indigenous prosecutor "was in charge of investigating the violent events that took place in the municipality of Pantelho," it said.

Last Friday, Perez participated in a meeting in Pantelho of the federal government and Chiapas state administration with a commission of 86 local communities to shed light on events that occurred in July.

On July 7, armed men stormed Pantelho town hall and clashed with a rival group, causing thousands of people from rural communities to flee.

Several members of the security forces who entered the town to try to restore order were wounded in an ambush.

Three days later, a vigilante group calling itself "El Machete" said it was behind the incursion and claimed it wanted "to expel hired killers, drug traffickers and organized crime."

"We do not want more deaths for the poor peasants (of the Tzeltal and Tzotzil ethnic groups)," it said.

On Monday, hundreds of Tzotzil and Tzeltal representatives from the Pantelho communities elected their interim municipal authorities by show of hands, according to custom, and decided that El Machete would remain in the region.

Self-defense movements have proliferated since the 1990s in Mexico, mainly in the southern state of Guerrero.

Although officially banned, around 50 self-defense groups have been formed in Mexico to defend the interests of local indigenous populations.