War and Conflict

Latin America & the Caribbean

What was the “dirty war”?

This is the name that has been given to a troubling chapter in Mexico’s recent history. In the late 1960s and early 1970s thousands of left-wing reformists were killed in Mexico, and hundreds more went missing and are presumed to have been killed. After the 2000 election of reform-minded President Vicente Fox (1942-), the human rights abuses of Mexico’s dirty war era at last were being investigated. In June 2002 secret security files were released detailing the government’s iron-fisted crackdown on its opponents during the late 1960s and into the 1970s. In July 2002 former Mexican president Luis Echeverria (1922-) was called before a special prosecutor, who quizzed the octogenarian about two massacres that occurred when he was a high-ranking government official and then president. In the two events, one in 1968 and the other in 1971, antigovernment protesters were beaten and shot. Echeverria and his presidential successor, Jose Lopez Portillo (1920–2004), both denied any involvement in the events or in the disappearance of radicals who actively protested their regimes. In late February 2005 Mexico’s Supreme Court, citing a 30-year time limit, ruled that Echeverria could not be tried on alleged human rights abuses. The decision was considered a setback for Fox’s reform efforts, which centered on punishing past crimes. But the special prosecutor in the case did not rule out bringing other charges against Echeverria, saying the former president ordered men loyal to him to attack student demonstrators.


This is a web preview of the "The Handy History Answer Book" app. Many features only work on your mobile device. If you like what you see, we hope you will consider buying. Get the App