SAN CRISTOBAL DE LAS CASAS, Mexico – Five state police officers were arrested Sunday in connection with the deaths of four villagers during a raid on protesters who had seized the entrance of a Mayan archaeological site.
The five officers led an operation on Friday to remove hundreds of mostly indigenous villagers who had occupied the entrance of the Chinkultic ruins in southern Mexico for nearly a month, the Chiapas Justice Department said. The officers were being investigated on possible homicide charges.
The villagers -- most of them from the Mayan Tzeltal and Tzotzil cultures -- had been protesting excessive entrance fees and the failure to reinvest those fees into the area's infrastructure and environment. They were demanding a role in the administration of the ruins.
Protesters fought the raid with sticks, rocks and machetes. They wrestled 75 guns from the officers and poured gasoline on others, threatening to set them on fire, the department said.
State Justice Secretary Amador Rodriguez Lozano said four villagers were killed and two are missing. Two dozen other people were injured, including 16 police officers, the department said.
Indigenous leaders say the two missing protesters were found dead, bringing the toll to six.
Another 295 police officers who had been held for questioning had been released by Sunday. But the Justice Department said more could be arrested as investigations continue.
Villagers had agreed to return the stolen weapons for the release of 30 detained protesters, Lozano said, adding that authorities will discuss the their offer. The protesters have also said they won't try to retake the entrance while negotiations are under way.
Chinkultic is a Mayan archaeological site about 1,200 years old located near the Montebello lakes near the Guatemalan border.
The villagers drove administrative workers off the site on Sept. 7, but allowed the archeologists to keep working.
During their takeover of the ruins, protesters charged visitors 20 pesos — $1.80 — for entrance rather than the official 35 pesos, or $3, and said they would use the money to fix roads and make other infrastructure improvements.