Mexican soldiers held by angry villagers after shooting of Guatemalan migrant

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) -Fifteen Mexican soldiers were detained for hours by angry villagers at a remote stretch of Mexico’s southern border with Guatemala after a soldier shot dead a Guatemalan migrant, Mexico’s defense ministry said on Tuesday.

Defense Minister Luis Cresencio Sandoval said a soldier on Monday afternoon had opened fire on a car that fled in reverse to avoid a military checkpoint in the Motozintla municipality of the state of Chiapas, near the Guatemalan border.

The shots killed a man described by the Chiapas Attorney General’s office as a 30-year-old migrant from Guatemala. Guatemala’s Foreign Ministry identified him as Elvin Mazariegos.

Shortly after the shooting, about 300 people from the local border area, including Guatemalans, arrived at the checkpoint armed with sticks and stones and shouting insults, Sandoval said, speaking at a regular government news conference.

“Obviously, they demanded justice,” Sandoval said.

At about 3 p.m. the group detained 15 soldiers, three vehicles and 17 guns, saying they would take them to Guatemala. About three hours later, amid dialogue with government officials, the group let nine soldiers go, Sandoval said.

They released the remaining soldiers, cars and weapons around 3 a.m. on Tuesday, he added.

Sandoval said the group, which was still on Mexican soil, reached a deal with officials for “economic reparation” over the killing, which occurred two days after the death of a Salvadoran woman while in police custody in the Mexican city of Tulum.

Sandoval did not say how much was paid. The protesters also demanded the soldier responsible face justice.

Describing the soldier’s actions as “erroneous,” Sandoval said the man had not faced any kind of aggression and had been taken into custody for questioning.

The Chiapas Attorney General’s Office said Mazariegos suffered gunshot wounds to the neck and chest, and that it had opened an investigation into the killing.

Mexico’s foreign ministry offered condolences and said there would be a deal for reparations.

Reporting by Daina Beth Solomon and Raul Cortes in Mexico City and Sofia Menchu in Guatemala City; Additional reporting by Drazen Jorgic