Mexican troops seized by villagers after Guatemalan man killed at a checkpoint

Fifteen Mexican troops were seized by residents of a remote border zone and held captive for hours after one of the soldiers shot and killed a Guatemalan citizen at a checkpoint.

The Mexican defense secretary, Luis Cresencio Sandoval, said on Tuesday that the events stemmed from “an erroneous reaction on the part of military personnel” who fired on a vehicle reversing away from a checkpoint on Monday.

The soldiers, three vehicles and 17 guns were released after Mexican officials agreed to economic reparations and legal proceedings against those responsible.

Guatemala’s foreign affairs ministry said that Elvin Mazariegos, a Guatemalan citizen living in the Mexican border town of Mazapa de Madero, was the victim.

“We demand Mexican authorities clear up the crimes committed against our countrymen to give them justice and so that these condemnable acts are not repeated,” the Guatemala foreign affairs minister, Pedro Brolo, said via Twitter.

The killing came two days after local police in the Mexican Caribbean resort town of Tulum killed a Salvadoran woman while trying to arrest her in a case that echoed the police killing of George Floyd in the US, which went to trial this week.

Mexican prosecutors said an autopsy showed police had broken the woman’s neck and would be charged with femicide.

The confrontation in Chiapas began around 1pm Monday at a military checkpoint in the town of Motozintla, an area where authorities say fuel smuggling is an issue.

The victim’s vehicle went into reverse after approaching the checkpoint and a soldier opened fire. Sandoval said soldiers attempted to treat the wounded person, but he died. Soldiers then detained the vehicle, two other passengers and the soldier who fired.

Two hours later, about 300 area residents, Mexicans and Guatemalans, arrived demanding justice. “They attacked personnel verbally and with rocks, sticks,” Sandoval said. He said 15 soldiers, three vehicles and 17 guns were seized.

Holding security forces captive is not unheard of in remote Indigenous communities where residents feel they have little other recourse.

Mexican military commanders began to negotiate with residents and nine soldiers were released by 5pm. The other six, along with their vehicles and weapons were taken “to a distant point, but did not cross the Guatemala border”, Sandoval said.

However, Guatemala army spokesman Ruben Téllez told local journalists that the Mexican personnel were brought to the Guatemalan border town of La Esperanza and held for hours.

“The negotiations were successful and at 3.20am the six soldiers and their arms were turned over to Mexican authorities, an exchange made at the border between Guatemala and Mexico,” Tellez said.

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