Saturday, August 23, 2008

Rebel leaders 'disappeared' by Mexican gvt-mediators

MEXICO CITY, Aug 14 (Reuters) - Mexican security forces kidnapped and "disappeared" two members of a leftist rebel group that bombed energy pipelines last year, said a panel mediating guerrilla and government talks on Thursday.

President Felipe Calderon's conservative government agreed in May to negotiate with the Popular Revolutionary Army, or EPR, which attacked oil and gas pipelines in 2007, disrupting supplies at the state-run oil monopoly Pemex.

But the Marxist guerrillas, who burst into public view in the 1990s, refused to participate in direct talks and said they wanted an independent, five-member panel to investigate the disappearance of two of their activists in May of last year.

The panel, made up of left-leaning political and religious figures, interviewed witnesses in the southern state of Oaxaca where the two guerrillas were last seen and blamed the government for their capture.

"All of the information collected by this commision suggests the two EPR members were detained by state agents or people that were acting with the support of the state government," said a report released by the panel.

"There has been a refusal (by authorities) to acknowledge the whereabouts of the missing people," said the statement.

Mexico's interior ministry said it was investigating the "forced disappearances" of the two men but stopped short of accusing local officials.

The EPR, which calls for a more equal distribution of wealth in Mexico, claims hundreds of members but after lethal ambushes on rural police and army bases the group remained quiet for nearly a decade, until reemerging during a rally in the poor southern state of Guerrero.

The explosions staged by the group in July and September of last year caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damage but no injuries. (Reporting by Miguel Angel Gutierrez and Mica Rosenberg; editing by Todd Eastham)

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