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México City, May 26, 2000.

CONSUL REGARDS RANCHER THREATS AS 'EXAGGERATED'

The News Staff

The U.S. consul in Tijuana on Wednesday said reports that undocumented Mexican immigrants are being hunted down and murdered by ranchers along the Mexico-Arizona border are "exaggerated."

At least three migrants have been shot to death after crossing the border this month, but Nick Hahn said that "reality has little to do with recently published reports" on the border situation in Arizona, government news agency Notimex reported. "Only a minimum number of violent incidents have been reported" on the Arizona side of the border, he said.

The focus of much protest in Mexico has been directed at the so-called "hunting" of migrants by Arizona ranchers. What the ranchers call citizen's arrests of tresspassers on their property has been cast in a far uglier light in the Mexican media. Denunciations of "great white hunters" who are "hunting Mexicans down like dogs" have been heard in the halls of Congress and seen on the front pages of newspapers.

The Foreign Relations Secretariat this month hired a Washington law firm

to prosecute ranchers who have stepped outside the bounds of the law in capturing migrants. Assault, kidnapping and human rights violations are among the possible charges.

Several migrants have been killed on the border in recent weeks: a Texas rancher on May 13 shot a man who had stopped on his property for water; a U.S. Border Patrol agent on Sunday killed a man crossing into Texas; and also on Sunday a robber in Arizona took 50 dollars from a group of migrants after killing one and wounding another.

Hahn said exaggerated reports of border vigilantes "only favor the polleros or coyotes (migrant guides) who charge as much as 3,000 dollars to get a person into the United States illegally."