Associated Press, Sep. 16, 2002
Killed in the shooting attack was Diego Hernandez Lopez, who local residents had accused of practicing witchcraft, police reported. The injured – most of home were listed in serious condition at hospitals in the nearby colonial city of San Cristobal – included a seven-month-old baby and a two-year-old girl.
Police are still trying to identify the attackers, a task made difficult by the prevailing level of violence in San Juan Chamula, where dominant Catholics have long attacked or expelled converts to Protestant faiths.
San Cristobal Bishop Felipe Arizmendi, whose diocese includes San Juan Chamula, condemned the attacks, reminding residents that “taking justice into one’s own hands could spark a spiral of violence that nobody can stop.”
Several other accused witches have been murdered in Chiapas over the last decade. In 1996, a mob beat and hanged a man they accused of drawing his victims’ souls into bottles and hiding them in a cave. As many as 12 other men were hacked to death with machetes in Chiapas in the 1990s, reportedly as punishment for practicing witchcraft.
While faith-healing and pre-Hispanic rituals are common in Chiapas, many of the state’s largely Indian residents also have a strong belief in, and fear of, reputed practitioners of black magic who allegedly provoke illness or death among their neighbors.