Saturday, October 04, 2008

6 Villagers Killed in Clash at Mexico Ruins

Published: October 4, 2008
Filed at 8:59 p.m. ET

SAN CRISTOBAL DE LAS CASAS, Mexico (AP) -- Police clashed with hundreds of villagers who seized the entrance to a Mayan archaeological site and six protesters were killed, state officials said Saturday.

Hundreds of villagers had occupied the entrance to the Chinkultic ruins for nearly a month, saying they were protesting excessive entrance fees and a lack of investment in the area.

The protesters fought police with sticks, rocks and machetes, according to the state Justice Department. Protesters managed to wrest guns away from some officers and poured gasoline on others, threatening to set them on fire, the department said.

Six protesters were killed in Friday's raid, and two dozen other people were injured, including 16 police, the department said.

Irma Trinidad, an indigenous leader who participated in the clash, said six of her comrades were shot to death by police. She said 10 other protesters had bullet wounds and 28 were arrested.

Chiapas state Justice Secretary Amador Rodriguez Lozano ordered 300 state police who participated in the raid to be detained for questioning. No charges have been filed.

Chinkultic is a Mayan archaeological site about 1,200 years old, located near the Montebello lakes near the Guatemalan border.

The villagers, most of them from the Mayan Tzeltal and Tzotzil cultures, drove administrative workers off the site on Sept. 7 with sticks, but allowed the archeologists to keep working.

The protesters charged visitors 20 pesos (US$1.80) for entrance rather than the official 35 pesos (US$3) and said they would use the money to fix roads and make other infrastructure improvements.

Tourists continued to visit the site during the takeover. At a booth outside the entrance, officials from the National Institute of Anthropology and History warned tourists about the protests but said the site was still open to visitors.