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Wednesday, January 7, 1998 Published at 22:19 GMT

image: [ BBC Correspondent: Emma Paterson ]Emma Paterson
Mexico City

The governor of the southern state of Chiapas, Julio Cesar Ruiz Ferro, has offered his resignation more than two weeks after the massacre of forty-five unarmed peasants. The governor had been widely accused of failing to take the appropriate action to avoid the killings allegedly carried out by pro-government paramilitaries but as our Mexico correspondent, Emma Paterson, reports, the governor's the second political casualty of the massacre which has sparked outrage both in Mexico and abroad:

The state governor, Mr. Ruiz Ferro, had been under growing pressure to resign following the massacre last month in which forty-five unarmed peasants were shot or beaten to death during a five-hour killing spree.

The governor was widely criticised for having failed to stop the massacre. Church officials in Chiapas say they called his office as the shooting began but he took no action.

The governor's administration has also been accused of funding the paramilitary group which allegedly carried out the attack. Up until now the governor has denied any wrongdoing and has blamed the killings on local rivalry between neighbouring villages.

Opposition groups say the massacre was politically motivated and the victims were killed because of their support for the Zapatista rebels, who took up arms four years ago. Mr. Ruiz Ferro's resignation comes just a few days after the Mexican Interior Minister, Emilio Chuayffet, was forced to stand down. The government has now promised to disarm the paramilitaries and to restart peace talks with the rebels who are demanding better living conditions and greater autonomy for impoverished Indian communities.

The latest flurry of resignations will help to partially defuse tensions between the two sides. The rebels continue to demand that the governor be brought to trial as well as all those who master-minded the crime.

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