The March to Mexico City


Pages:  UPDATES,   Zapatista Marcos' speech in Mexico City, The March to Mexico City, Jan. - Aug 2000, 1999, 1998, Chiapas Media Project

Mexico Rebels Hold Indian Forum

March 02, 2001

NURIO, Mexico (AP) -- Mexican Indians gathered Friday amid pine-covered mountains to launch a three-day, rebel-sponsored National Indigenous Congress.

The gathering of diverse Indian groups -- whose problems are as varied as their 62 languages -- comes amid a two-week march to the capital by Zapatista Indian rebels lobbying for an Indian rights bill.

Maya Indians from the Gulf coast state of Campeche are demanding farm aid, while the biggest concerns of the Purepechas, from this western state of Michoacan, are a lack of jobs and the deforestation of fir groves.

Mazahua Indians from near Mexico City quickly staked out an area for their tent on a hilltop where the convention will take place, as if to illustrate their own concerns about encroachment onto their land.

But all were here for a common cause: to see if traditionally fragmented Indian communities could unite behind the Zapatistas, a group that on Friday marked the seventh day of a 15-day bus caravan through Mexico to build support for its leftist, Indian-rights agenda.

No one seemed to mind that Subcomandante Marcos, the rebel leader, is not an Indian himself.

"We want to keep the image, the momentum that Marcos has created around Indian problems," said Jose Arsenio Cahuich, a Maya farm leader at the congress. "Let's hope it doesn't fade."

But Cahuich also illustrated how complex it will be for Marcos to unite Indians behind his leadership. Cahuich is a member of President Vicente Fox's National Action Party, which Marcos has accused of serving the interests of the rich and foreign corporations.

Despite the security Fox's government has provided for the rebel caravan, the rebel leader continues to criticize the president and ridicule his goodwill gestures.

Since taking office Dec. 1, Fox has closed four army bases in Chiapas, helped gain the release of dozens of Zapatista supporters jailed on various charges, and sent Congress a bill on Indian rights and autonomy.

That takes him about halfway toward meeting the demands of the rebels, who say that in addition to passage of the rights bill, all prisoners must be released, and all seven military bases shut down.

Congress participants said they will try to hammer out a joint Indian position on Fox's policies.

Left off the agenda was the issue of women's rights, which some see as one of the most burning issues within the Indian communities.

A tradition of male domination in many Indian groups has contributed to a legacy of high birthrates and little education for women. That has led, in part, to increasing competition for the few remaining jobs.

"A lot of us have to leave and go to the United States, because there just isn't any work here," said Salvador Hernandez, 36, from Nurio, a Purepecha village of 3,500. He said he has worked illegally in the United States three times.

The lure of immigration may be one reason why the Purepecha -- despite a 500-year history of oppression and discrimination -- didn't join in an Indian uprising like the one that took place in Chiapas seven years ago.

"If other Indian groups in other states haven't done it, it's because, like our state, they have an escape valve: migration to the United States," an editorial in the newspaper, La Voz de Michoacan, said.

The congress's agenda also appeared to leave little room for environmental issues, not surprising given that rebel supporters themselves have expanded into one of Mexico's few remaining tropical jungle reserves.

The environmental problems plaguing Indian communities were evident in Nurio, where dust storms swirled around the congress site -- a wooden stage and rows of tree-trunk benches situated on a dry, partly deforested hilltop.

"It used to rain more around here," said Pablo Soto Leonel, a 68-year-old Purepecha guide. "But now that they're cutting down the forest, little by little, it's been getting drier and drier."

Copyright � 2001 Associated Press Information Services, all rights reserved.




Call to Support the Zapatistas
on their historic journey to Mexico City!


On February 23, the Zapatistas began a historic journey to Mexico City to demand Indigenous Rights and dignity for all of Mexico. On March 11, the 23 commandantes (and Sub-commandante Marcos) who have traveled with the March across 12 Mexican states will hold a rally in Mexico City.

People in cities across the United States will also be standing in solidarity with the Zapitistas in support of the caravan and their struggle. The following is a partial list of solidarity actions in the United States in support of the EZLN's March to Mexico City. If you're local committee or friends are putting on a public event, let us know (msn@mexicosolidarity.org) and we'll add it to the updated list!!

Rally to support Indigenous Rights and the EZLN�s arrival in Mexico City.

Come celebrate the Zapatistas arrival in Mexico City and support their Demands for Indigenous rights, the release of all Zapatista political prisoners, and the withdraw of military bases in Chiapas. The event will include Aztec dancers, music, speakers, art, and celebration!

March 11, noon, 18th St and Blue Island, Chicago (in front of Biblioteca Rudy and Radio Arte) (312) 316-6759 o en www.rojo.net

For more information on solidarity actions in the United States and across the world you can visit www.ezlnaldf.org. For up to date caravan information from a non-corporate perspective contact: http://chiapas.indymedia.org This message and list was prepared by The Mexico Solidarity Network. www.mexicosolidarity.org or call 773-583-7728



Mexico's Marcos calls for support from non-Indians

By Lorraine Orlandi
Feb 28, 2001

PUEBLA, Mexico, - Rebel Subcommander Marcos, after denouncing Mexico's non-Indian business and political establishment in recent days, has struck a different chord in calling on Mexicans of all ethnic backgrounds to join the Indian cause as his Zapatista caravan nears the capital.

"Dignity for the indigenous does not mean dominating the other who is not indigenous," he told a crowd of several thousand in the city of Puebla's sprawling central plaza on Tuesday.

"The march for indigenous dignity must be a march of indigenous and non-indigenous," said the masked rebel leader, believed to be of mixed Indian and Spanish blood like Mexico's majority.

"Only thus can we build a house called the world in which all of us fit, where all are equal and each one different."

As the two-week, 12-state trek to the capital by 24 rebel leaders and thousands of supporters has drawn international attention, Marcos has taken a hands-off stance toward President Vicente Fox over efforts to end their seven-year-old rebellion in southern Chiapas state.

While other commanders continued to snipe at Fox on Tuesday, charging him with using the country as his "private ranch" and seeking to create a "semblance of peace" for political gain, Marcos avoided any direct reference to the president.

Fox, who ended 71 years of a single-party rule reviled by the Zapatistas when he took office in December, has made concessions to the rebels but not gone far enough to bring them back to the negotiating table. The tone between both sides has turned increasingly sour.

On Tuesday Fox said the demands of indigenous people were at the top of his priority list, and he warned that no one could delay the peace process. "The time for peace has arrived. Society will not accept any more pretexts or conditions that will only delay the resolution of the conflict," Fox said at the closing of the World Economic Forum meeting in the southern resort of Cancun.


The so-called Zapatour culminates on March 11 in Mexico City, where rebel leaders will lobby lawmakers for an Indian rights bill proposed by Fox in an effort to meet Zapatista conditions for reviving peace talks that stalled in 1996.

The march has drawn an outpouring of support since it left the southern state of Chiapas on Sunday.

Marcos entered the state of Puebla to a hero's welcome and heartfelt words of thanks from indigenous leaders for bringing the plight of Mexico's 10 million Indians to world attention with the New Years Day 1994 Zapatista uprising for indigenous rights.

In the Puebla state capital he received his most raucous reception yet. He and Zapatista commanders were delayed from stepping on stage as thousands of fans mobbed their tour bus.

The somewhat alcohol-soaked crowd hooted and shouted for Marcos as other commanders spoke first, and spectators forced a local Televisa reporter off the platform where he was giving an on-camera report by booing and pelting him with objects.

It was the last stop of a three-city tour that also crossed into the sweltering Gulf Coast state of Veracruz.

Earlier in the day, at a rally in Tehuacan in Puebla state, Marcos was adamant about about the need for a law enshrining Indian rights in the Constitution.

"We are going to get the law approved," Marcos said, referring to the bill that would establish constitutional indigenous rights including the right for indigenous communities to run their affairs based on traditional customs.

"Never again are we indigenous going to take orders from anyone," Marcos said.


Oaxaca Journal:
Mexican Rebels' Hopes Meet Hard Indian Reality

By Ginger Thompson
Luis J. Jime'nez for The New York Times

OAXACA, Mexico, Feb. 27 - The Zapatista rebels' march to Mexico City has become the biggest show in the country, and Esther Jua'rez, 21, traveled almost half a day to see it pass through this colonial town.

Carrying her daughter, 1, in her arms, she arrived with dozens of other working-class coffee farmers from her Mixe Indian village in the Sierra Madre, all crowded in the back of an old truck. Their ill-fitting clothes were so tattered that they looked like rags, and most of the women wore plastic sandals that were splitting on all sides.

When she was asked what she thought about the Zapatista rebellion for Indian rights - or about President Vicente Fox's promises to reach a peaceful settlement to the seven- year-old conflict in the southern state of Chiapas - her expressive brown eyes turned blank. To her, the demands and promises sound like pipe dreams. The struggle she most cares about, she said, is the one that she faces every day to feed her family.

On a good day - and Ms. Jua'rez made clear that good days are rare - she is able to scrape together a couple of pesos to buy her baby an egg for supper. But mostly, she said, she feeds her daughter tortillas with salt. As for herself and her husband, Ms. Jua'rez said, their daily diet consists of tortillas and a salsa made with chilis, water and salt.

Rice and beans, a staple of most Mexican households, are often too expensive for Ms. Jua'rez's family. When asked whether she ate meat, she shrugged and said perhaps once a month.

"We all live this way," Ms. Jua'rez said of her community. When asked about wealthy residents, she shook her head no, and said, "There are people who are even poorer than me."

As a 24-member group of Zapatista rebels winds its way toward Mexico City in pursuit of new rights for the 10 million indigenous people in this country, they are making symbolic stops in areas like this one, where the social plagues that incited their cause come to life. The rebels' audiences are sprinkled with Indians from isolated hamlets who know little about the conflict in the Chiapas jungles but who endure the desperate hardships that drive the uprising.

More than 90 percent of Mexican Indians live in housing without sewage systems, and 60 percent of their houses do not have running water, according to government reports. More than 44 percent of Indians are illiterate, compared with 10 percent of the whole country. Seventy percent of Indian children suffer problems related to malnutrition.

With the highest indigenous population in the nation, Oaxaca leads Mexico in many indicators of Indian poverty. On Monday, across the same crowded plaza in the center of this colonial town where the Zapatista leader Subcommander Marcos denounced the Indians' "scandalous conditions of misery," more than 100 indigenous people camped out in front of the palace of the state government to demand basic services and protection.

Dozens of protesters had arrived that day from Santa Cruz Tepenixtlahuaca to demand that the government install a water system and build a road to their village. They said that to go to and from the nearest market to sell their fruit and vegetables or to take a day job to earn a little money - $4 a day - they have to walk six hours over a mountain.

The farmers said they had been asking for a road for 10 years. Their children have begun to lose hope that things will ever improve. And for the first time, some of their sons have migrated to the United States.

Previous messages are available from http://www.eco.utexas.edu/faculty/Cleaver/chiapas95.html or gopher to Texas, University of Texas at Austin, Department of Economics, Mailing Lists.



Zapatista March Begins; Rebel Leaders
Greeted by Thousands From Chiapas to Puebla

Mexico Solidarity Network
Weekly News Summary
February 22-28, 2001

On Saturday, February 24, twenty-three indigenous commanders of the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN), accompanied by rebel spokesperson Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos, began an historic and peaceful journey to the nation's capital, Mexico City.

The rebels insist they are not traveling to Mexico City in order to sign peace or even to open negotiations with President Fox, as long as the three pre-conditions for negotiations are not fulfilled. Apart from compliance with the San Andr�s Accords, those conditions are the release of all the Zapatista political prisoners, and a full withdrawal of the Army from three more military positions in Chiapas.

Rather, the high-level, unarmed rebel caravan is making the journey to open a dialogue with federal legislators in support of a 1996 constitutional reform initiative which would partially implement the San Andr�s Accords on Indigenous Rights and Culture, signed five years ago between the EZLN and the federal government.

Nevertheless, the beginning of the march was publicly welcomed by President Vicente Fox, who published a message in both the written press and on television welcoming the Zapatista mobilization, because, in his words, "this is the hour of our indigenous brothers�this is the hour of peace, and if we all want peace, peace will arrive soon."

The Zapatista trip to Mexico City is not a direct or rapid one. After leaving Chiapas, the rebel caravan took four days to pass through the states of Oaxaca, Veracruz, Puebla, Tlaxcala, and Hidalgo, holding rallies with thousands of people and meeting with representatives of various indigenous and social organizations along the way. On March 1, the rebel caravan will travel through the states of Quer�taro and Michoac�n. In the latter state, in the town of Nurio, the EZLN leaders will remain for three extra days to participate in the annual conference of the National Indigenous Congress.

On March 5, the Zapatistas will travel southeast toward Mexico State, and will then pass south into Morelos and Guerrero before arriving back in the outskirts of Mexico City on March 8. Three days later, the rebels will enter the city center for a mass rally, and will begin discussions with federal legislators on March 12.

The journey began late on February 24 after the twenty-three rebel commanders and Marcos arrived in San Crist�bal de las Casas from their various towns and villages in the north, highlands, and jungle regions of the state. Before a crowd of between ten and fifteen thousand supporters, Comandante Tacho read an official communiqu� from the EZLN General Command announcing the participation of Monterrey architect Fernando Ya�ez Mu�oz in the Zapatista delegation as a "special guest," adding that Ya�ez Mu�oz would be the "bridge" between the Zapatista delegation and federal legislators.

The designation of Ya�ez Mu�oz came as a surprise to most observers. Formerly known as "Comandante Germ�n" - the leader of the National Liberation Forces, the guerrilla organization which eventually gave birth to the EZLN prior to 1994 - Ya�ez Mu�oz had kept a low profile since his arrest and subsequent release in October 1995 on charges of illegal weapons possession. His relationship with the EZLN since 1993 has been the subject of much speculation in the media and among those who profited from writing books about the Zapatista insurgency, but little was known about his current participation in the movement.

At the San Crist�bal ceremony, Ya�ez Mu�oz accompanied the Zapatista delegation on the podium and received warm embraces from all 24 delegates, including Marcos. While the rest of the delegation wore their traditional ski-masks, Ya�ez Mu�oz's face was uncovered and he sported a black beret.

From San Crist�bal, the Zapatista caravan departed on the morning of February 25 for the rebellious city of Juchit�n, Oaxaca, with stops in the Chiapas state capital of Tuxtla Guti�rrez and the Oaxacan towns of San Pedro Tapanetepec and La Ventosa.

Since the International Red Cross declined to accompany the caravan, protection was provided by ordinary civilians (members of "civil society"), foreign observers, and hundreds of state and federal police.

In Tuxtla, ten thousand people attended the Zapatista rally, filling the central plaza and the adjoining streets. Hundreds more lined the roads in rural Chiapas and Oaxaca to greet the rebels as the "Zapatour" continued on its way.

In La Ventosa, just outside of Juchit�n and located on the Tehuantepec Isthmus, Subcomandante Marcos spoke out against the proposed "Megaproject of the Isthmus," part of President Fox's "Puebla to Panama" development plan which would include a "modernization" of the narrow stretch of Mexican territory between the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. The Isthmus is also considered a possible candidate for the construction of a future replacement for the Panama Canal. The Megaproject has been a focal point of opposition for indigenous and social organizations in the area, and now such groups have received the backing of the EZLN. "The Isthmus is not for sale," declared Marcos, to the cheers of thousands.

When the Zapatista caravan left La Ventosa, it was visibly larger: dozens of members of local or regional independent organizations, including the Union of Indigenous Communities of the Northern Zone of the Isthmus (UCIZONI), decided to join the March for Indigenous Dignity.

"Compa�eros," spoke an UCIZONI representative to the Zapatista commanders, "before your struggle, we did not have clarity. We knew what we wanted, but we did not know the path. Your fight is just. Your path is our path."

In Juchit�n, more than fifteen thousand people, mostly indigenous Zapotecos, Huaves, Chinantecos, Zoques, Mixes, Chontales, and Mazatecos, welcomed the Zapatista leaders. The city's mayor, Leopoldo de Gyves, gave the official welcoming address: "We receive you here with honor, because your struggle for indigenous rights is also our struggle," he said. "There will not be peace as long as ten million indigenous people across the country live in misery, there will not be peace as long as workers, campesinos, and Indians are exploited�.We are with you!"

On behalf of the EZLN, Comandanta Esther spoke in Juchit�n of the "triple exploitation" suffered by indigenous women, for being indigenous, for being women, and for being poor. "We have been exploited and forgotten for more than 500 years," she added. "No one paid attention to us because we spoke our language and used our traditional clothes. They great powers wanted to make us disappear, but they could not. Here we are."

On February 26, the rebels and close to three thousand others accompanying the caravan left Juchit�n for the state capital of Oaxaca. Thousands poured into the central plaza of Oaxaca, many representing indigenous organizations such as the Movement for Triqui Unification and Liberation (MULT) and the National Indigenous Congress, under a giant banner reading "EZLN: Welcome to Oaxaca!"

Rebel Commander Yolanda spoke of the tradition of struggle among the indigenous peoples of Oaxaca, saying "The accomplishment of the indigenous peoples of Oaxaca is that now all indigenous people can be proud of ourselves."

Subcomandante Marcos also spoke in Oaxaca, reiterating the intention of the march: "So that it is no longer a crime to think like an Indian." Referring again to President Fox's development plans for the region, Marcos insisted "there will be no Puebla to Panama Plan, nor a Trans-Isthmus Megaproject, nor any type of project which will result in the sale or destruction of the home of the indigenous peoples."

Representatives of the sixteen indigenous groups in Oaxaca gave a special gift to the four women among the Zapatista commanders: the "bastones de mando," symbolic representations of authority in their respective communities.

The bastones, said one representative, "represent the commitment to struggle for the most noble causes of our people. Today that cause is for the constitutional recognition of indigenous rights. The bast�n de mando signifies the mandate of our peoples�we give it to you because you have known how to act on behalf of the demands of our people."

On February 27, the EZLN caravan left Oaxaca for the city of Puebla, passing first through Tehuac�n (Puebla) and Orizaba (Veracruz). It was the most emotional day yet for the Zapatour, as the reception granted to the rebels in each of the three stops was more, much more, than anyone had expected.

In Tehuac�n, five thousand people came from the surrounding villages to the small town in order to witness the arrival of the Zapatistas. Nahuas, Popolocas, Mixtecos, and Mazatecos spoke at the rally, welcoming the rebels and speaking of the discrimination, humiliation, and mistreatment they face on a daily basis in their own communities.

One of the Nahua speakers gave Subcomandante Marcos yet another "bast�n de mando," in representation of the Nahua communities in Puebla. "The Nahua peoples," he said, addressing himself to the Zapatista leadership, "have walked and will walk alongside you, since time immemorial, because we are the same. We are rebel dignity, we are the forgotten heart. We will not stop struggling for the collective rights of our peoples, so that those rights may be recognized in the Constitution. Today, February 27, in the name of the Nahua peoples, we ratify our support for you."

In the closing act of the Tehuac�n ceremony, Subcomandante Marcos read a text in which he affirmed that "the indigenous peoples are the guardians of history."

"In our memory," he continued, "we keep all the colors, all the paths, all the words, and all the silences. We live so that memory may live, and so that which is alive shall not be lost."

In late morning the caravan continued on its way, arriving three hours later in the industrial town of Orizaba, in the shadow of Mexico's highest volcano. Thousands upon thousands of people lined the roads outside of the town shouting their support for the rebels. The whole city, in fact, had literally come to a halt. The central plaza was overflowing with people, the nearby streets were packed, and the city center was completely paralyzed. The Zapatistas would perhaps have been happy with a turnout of five thousand people in Orizaba. Instead, they were received by thirty thousand.

After the prolonged rally, in which the EZLN received support from representatives of Veracruz's ten indigenous groups, the caravan moved toward the old colonial city of Puebla. There, no one seems to have counted how many people participated in the mass rally for the rebels, but the visual images alone suggest it was the largest concentration yet along the route of the Zapatista caravan.

Comandantes Tacho, David, and Zebedeo spoke to the massive crowds in Puebla, as did Subcomandante Marcos. "We have demonstrated that we are capable," said Tacho, the Tojolabal commander from the occupied village of Guadalupe Tepeyac. "We have reason on our side. We demand together, all of us together, the recognition of our rights as indigenous peoples in the Constitution. Enough of humiliation and being ignored! Enough of silent deaths! Enough of the discrimination of poverty! We want a more human life, a life which is more just, more dignified. This is our time, brothers and sisters of civil society. It is not fair to be poor in a country so rich in natural resources."

"Let it be clear to those who call themselves governments," he continued: "they will no longer be able to forget about us."

On the day of this writing (February 28), the Zapatista caravan has left Puebla and is en route toward the states of Hidalgo and Guanajuato, and then to Michoac�n to participate in the annual meeting of the National Indigenous Congress. The rebel leaders will arrive in the center of Mexico City in eleven days.



Mexico Zapatistas Set to Begin Indian Rights Tour

February 24, 2001
By Lorraine Orlandi

OVENTIC, Mexico (Reuters) - Zapatista rebel leaders and thousands of masked Indian sympathizers poured out of mountain and jungle hamlets in Mexico's impoverished Chiapas state on Saturday to begin a march to the capital to demand greater respect for the human rights of indigenous people.

Rebel leader Subcommander Marcos and other commanders formally put aside their weapons before they set out in a winding caravan of vehicles from their jungle hide-out in La Realidad for the two-week journey.

In the village of Oventic, a Zapatista base in the Indian highlands, hundreds of Tzotzil men, women and children wearing black ski masks or red bandannas over their faces massed around a basketball court to depart with other rebel leaders.

"We are happy, we are united," said one masked supporter who identified himself only as Enrique.

Women nursing infants, the elderly, entire families -- all masked -- loaded into countless trucks and buses stretching as far as the eye could see for the 25 mile trip to San Cristobal de las Casas.

Supporters and journalists from around the world, meanwhile, descended on San Cristobal to meet the 24 rebel commanders on the first leg of their trek, which formally gets underway on Sunday.

City officials estimated some 25,000 people could attend an evening ceremony in San Cristobal's historic central plaza to support the Zapatistas.

In a tour through the countryside to the doors of parliament in Mexico City, the masked rebel leaders will seek to rally grass-roots support and pile pressure on the government to accept their conditions for peace in the strife-torn southern state.

The march across 12 states is seen as a challenge to new President Vicente Fox, who has made concessions but not yet gone far enough to draw the rebels back to peace talks.

In a televised address late on Friday, Fox welcomed the march as "a bridge for peace" and said only dialogue and negotiation would allow an honorable and fair outcome.

"If we all want peace, it will come soon. If the real fight is for the restoration of indigenous rights, we're fighting the same battle," he said.


The so-called Zapatour departs from this colonial city in the Indian heartland and culminates in Mexico City on March 11. There the rebel leaders will lobby lawmakers for passage of indigenous rights legislation proposed by Fox in an effort to meet Zapatista conditions for reviving peace talks, which stalled in 1996.

Some indigenous people fiercely opposed the demonstration, a reflection of the deep social divisions that have riven this state, where one-quarter of the people are Indians.

An elder in San Juan Chamula, a community known for its faithfulness to tradition and its loyalty to the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) ousted by Fox, called the Zapatistas impostors in terms of their indigenous credentials.

"They are not authentic," said the village leader, wearing a brightly beribboned headdress and dancing with a group of elders. "We want nothing to do with them."

The march, joined by international observers and solidarity workers, will be escorted by 1,600 security troops through the state, where some landowners whose property has been occupied by Zapatistas threatened disruptions.

It is being compared to peasant revolutionary Emiliano Zapata's triumphant arrival in the Mexican capital in 1914 for its political impact and popular appeal.

"I expect Marcos will enter Mexico City in a triumphal march, with at least a million people lined up in the streets wearing masks," said political commentator Sergio Sarmiento.

It also reflects the public relations savvy that has been the hallmark of the Zapatista movement since it rose up on New Year's Day in 1994 and captured the international spotlight.

Like earlier, highly publicized Zapatista jungle encounters with international celebrities, artists and intellectuals, this massive public demonstration will raise Marcos' profile, further legitimize the Zapatista cause and increase pressure on the government to act on rebel demands, analysts said.

Asked what concrete results could come from the march, Harry Cleaver, a Chiapas expert at the University of Texas in Austin, said: "Peace. Peace, if we're lucky."

Twenty-year-old rebel sympathizer "Rosa Alba" said she wanted justice and freedom from persecution by armed bands linked to the PRI, blamed for sporadic violence.

"They want to keep us poor," she said as she waited to depart Oventic with her extended family.


Hot Tamales and Zapatistas!!!

Mark your calendars to Join Community Action on Latin America in a fundraising celebration of the Zapatista Caravan from Chiapas to Mexico City. Wednesday February 28th, 7:00 pm in the Pres House

On the 24th of February the Zapatistas will gather in San Cristobal de Las Casas in the state of Chiapas to begin the long journey to the capital. Along the way, the caravan will pass through many Mexican states where others will join in the cries of justice to be carried to the halls of the Mexican Congress.

Five years after signing the San Andres Peace Accords, the Mexican government has not honored their word in giving the indigenous communities in Chiapas the autonomy to decide their own futures. With the arrival of President Fox on the scene there is renewed hope to arrive at an agreement. Join us to celebrate and recognize the Caravan from our place here in Madison.

When: Wednesday February 28th
Time: 7:00 pm
Where: The Pres House, 731 State St. on the Library Mall, Madison
What: Presentation by local Zapatista, Jorge Garcia
Followed by MEXICAN TAMALES! with beans and rice Video presentation of autonomous coffee growers from Mut Vitz

***Suggested donation of $5-20 to go directly to the Caravan***



Zapatista March Sparks New Hope for Peace in Chiapas


San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico, Feb 21, 2001 (EFE via COMTEX) -- The march through 12 Mexican states that Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) leaders will begin Saturday has sparked new hope for peace in Chiapas, where the armed conflict has killed hundreds of residents and displaced more than 10,000 since 1994.

The accounts of the EZLN's origins are as contradictory as the rumors regarding its funding sources and the interests that drive the indigenous peoples' movement.

Most accounts concur that the movement took shape in the early 1980s, though the group did not surface in the international sphere until its armed uprising of Jan. 1, 1994, the same day that the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) signed by Mexico, the United States and Canada entered into effect.

Thousands of hooded rebels overran San Cristobal de las Casas and three other communities in La Canada, brandishing the flag of the dispossessed and threatening to lay siege to Mexico City.

After three days of fighting in which more than 100 combatants, mostly Zapatistas, were killed, the Mexican government, then headed by President Ernesto Zedillo of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), declared a cease-fire.

The attention the EZLN attracted, and the deftness with which charismatic leader Subcomandante Marcos handled the media, turned Chiapas into a focus of international attention and the Zapatista uprising into "the last romantic revolution" of the 20th century.

The guerrillas and the government then launched peace talks with the help of Samuel Ruiz, at the time the bishop of San Cristobal and an adherent to Liberation Theology, which cast the church as a roleplayer for social development, and a key figure in the evangelization of the Chiapas Indians in the previous decades.

The intermittent talks led to the San Andres Accords of February 1996, which recognized the autonomy of indigenous peoples, their ownership of their land's natural resources and their right to practice their own customs.

The accords, crafted in the Tzotzil Indian community of San Andres Larrainzar, were never signed into law. The guerrillas walked away from the talks in September 1996, accusing the government of reneging on its pledges.

After that, the parties drew further apart, rhetoric became more strident, threats of violence increased as the area became increasingly militarized, paramilitary groups weighed in, and the prospects of peace under a PRI government faded.

Victims of this period were Ruiz's National Commission for Intermediation (Conai), dissolved by the bishop himself after the government launched a defamation campaign, and the credibility of the Mexican Congress' Commission for Concordance and Pacification (Cocopa).

Branded into Chiapas' history was the Acteal massacre of December 1997, where PRI-sponsored paramilitaries slaughtered 45 Indians, mostly women and children, as they prayed in church.

In response, Zedillo's government opted for an attrition campaign that failed to diminish either Marcos' popularity or the Zapatistas' international support.

Opposition leader Vicente Fox's historic victory in last July's presidential elections ended 71 years of uninterrupted PRI hegemony and sparked new hope and, for the first time since 1996, the EZLN agreed to return to the negotiating table.

The rebels set down as preconditions, however, that the government close down seven army outposts in Chiapas, release some 100 combatants and political prisoners and enact the law protecting the rights of indigenous peoples.

So far, the government has closed four outposts, released 30 prisoners and forwarded the legislation to congress.

Though the guerrillas insist they will not talk until all their demands are met, analysts believe the EZLN march, scheduled to reach its Mexico City destination on March 11, and the leaders' subsequent meeting with Cocopa legislators, renew hopes for lasting peace in Chiapas. EFE

By Mar Marin
By Mar Marin http://www.efe.es
Copyright (c) 2001. Agencia EFE S.A.

Reprinted under the Fair Use http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.html doctrine of international copyright law.



Mexico struggles to come to grips with treatment of its Indians

By Mark Stevenson
The Associated Press

CHENALHO, Mexico (AP) -- Farmer Andres Nunez walks into a store and clerks act as though he isn't there. Juana Gomez hawks embroidered bags at a marketplace and people brush by her. Agustin Vazquez pleads for aid and government officials ignore him.

The reason, these three and many others say, is simple: They are Indians.

"We Indian farmers seem to cause blindness in people, because they act like they don't see us," said Vazquez, an elder in Chenalho, a Tzotzil Indian town, who wears a traditional beribboned hat and carries a wooden staff of authority.

The treatment of Mexico's Indians has been largely an invisible issue for decades.

By and large, Mexicans -- most of whom are varying shades of mixed Indian and European ancestry, and often are themselves the victims of discrimination in the United States -- view racism as a foreign phenomenon.

"There isn't any racism in Mexico, because we have no blacks," goes a common saying that ignores several realities, including Mexico's small Afro-Caribbean population.

For decades, Mexico's 10 million Indians have been revered in textbooks and government propaganda -- and systematically ignored in reality.

The official line, sculpted in stone or bronze on monuments for 70 years, reads: "Here was born the Cosmic Race," a term coined in the 1920s by a pioneer of modern Mexican art and education, Jose Vasconcelos, to describe a seamless continuum of Indian and mixed-race people, known as mestizos. The theory praised Indians but said the future belongs to mestizos. They would inherit the Indian strength and wisdom, and Indians, about 10 percent of the population, would just get folded into the mix.

Mexico has no official definition of who is an Indian, nor any special benefits for them. There has been no real debate on whether to integrate Indians or help them develop separately.

Mexico hasn't even decided on a name for them: The simplest term, "Indio," has come to be an open insult. "Don't be an Indian," many mestizos say. It means don't be ignorant, or uncouth.

But after Mexico's first democratic transfer of national power in last year's presidential election, there is now at least a serious debate within government about which way to go for Mexico's 62 Indian groups.

Upon assuming office Dec. 1, President Vicente Fox took up the questions broached by the 1994 Zapatista uprising, quoting a slogan popularized by the mostly Indian rebels: "Never again a Mexico without us."

He pledged to slash poverty among Indians and proposed legislation that would grant some autonomy to Indians to follow ancient traditions in local governance, culture, land ownership and natural resources.

Many Indian rights activists have worried the ascent of Fox's National Action Party -- largely middle class, and thus more white -- may mean a reduction in the number of high-profile Indians in politics.

But Fox signaled a new approach by appointing Xochitl Galvez, an Otomi Indian, as Mexico's first Cabinet-level Indian affairs director. Galvez says she wants to develop something that Spanish doesn't quite have a word for: empowerment.

It's something she wants to give the millions of Indians who toil in labor camps to build hotels and office buildings on land their ancestors ruled 500 years ago, before the Spaniards conquered the Maya and Aztec empires and dozens of other groups.

"For 500 years you've been told you're an imbecile, that you can't do anything for yourself, and in all that time you've demonstrated just the opposite," Galvez said. "One of the main things we have to do is recover self-esteem."

Although she put herself through college and founded a technology-consulting firm, Galvez knows what that struggle is like.

"When I first came to Mexico City at 16, I was fired from my job on the first day, because of the Indian accent I had," Galvez said.

Indian accents and mannerisms are the butt of jokes on television and in movies. At official "cultural" events, Indians are sometimes depicted with buckskin dresses and feather headdresses that seem copied more from U.S. cowboy movies than from any group that exists in Mexico.

Such attitudes have been common for generations. In the 1880s, dictator Porfirio Diaz -- whose mother was a Mixtec Indian -- ordered his servants to powder their faces so visiting dignitaries "won't think we're a country of Indians." He also invited Germans to immigrate "to improve the race."

After the 1910 Revolution, official propaganda depicted Indians as bronzed heroines and heroes who resisted the Spaniards, and land reform programs in the 1930s released some of them from near-slavery on haciendas -- but they continued to lose territory to mestizo farmers.

The Institutional Revolutionary Party, which held the presidency from 1929 until Fox's victory, actively recruited Indian leaders and used meager aid programs to keep the Indian masses as a reserve of captive votes.

By the early 1990s, however, the PRI's turn to free-market policies meant Indians were considered simply the worst of Mexico's poverty pockets. Farm subsidies were cut, replaced by infrastructure and self-help projects.

Jokes about the kind of soft, lilting accent Galvez once had are still a staple of television comedy shows, and almost all characters on Mexico's ever-popular nightly soap operas -- even the Indians -- are played by light-skinned, often blond, actors.

A mestizo actress, Maria Elena Velasco, has created one of Mexico's most enduring movie series with her character "Maria the Indian." Maria outwits rich mestizos but also repeats the stereotypes of Indians as simple-minded, fearful people fascinated but confused by modern contraptions like washing machines.

Nunez, the young Tzotzil farmer, said Indians often have a mild, patient manner that makes it easy for Mestizos to ignore them.

"You see it in the stores, the markets, the offices," he said. "They see the way you speak, the way you dress, and then you get the feeling that they stop paying attention to you."

Like many Indians in the mountains of Chiapas, Nunez eschews the traditional white cotton pants and black wool tunic of his ancestors for Western-style work clothes. He speaks workable Spanish, and serves on a Zapatista governing council in the town of San Andres Larrainzar.

"Everywhere you go, people see you as an Indian and they aren't going to take you into account," he said. "They make you wait. You can be standing there for hours, days, and nobody will care if you're tired or hungry."

Most agree it isn't color that primarily drives discrimination, but speech or dress.

Galvez, relatively light-skinned herself, jokes about "a white gene" she must have picked up somewhere, and about how an "Indio-meter" would be needed to sort out what is often largely a cultural distinction.

The situation is complex. Subcomandante Marcos, the leader of the Zapatistas' Indian rights fight, is a light-skinned mestizo, the son of a reasonably well-off family from the Gulf Coast state of Veracruz.

And Fox, at 6 feet 5 inches with an Irish grandfather and a mother born in Spain, is about as far from Indian as one can get.

Most Mexicans have some Indian blood. But being an Indian is often a matter of self-definition. The Mexican government uses language as a rough guide, but even that measure fails.

In the 2000 census, 7.3 million people said they spoke an Indian language, but 2 million of those denied being Indians, "a situation that could be associated with concepts of social or cultural mobility," according to the census report.

On the other hand, 1 million people who don't speak an Indian language said they were indigenous -- that in a country where Indian status brings no special aid, benefits or rights.

The better-off people are, the less likely they are to call themselves Indians. The poorest are the one-fifth of Indians who don't speak any Spanish, most concentrated in southern states like Chiapas.

The government still runs small, local radio stations that provide a few hours a day of programming in 31 of the 62 Indian languages spoken in Mexico.

Some Indians get a rudimentary bilingual education in grade school, but all are expected to learn Spanish, study the same history and civics, live in communities governed on the same principles as the rest of Mexico.

Yet most Indian communities are not like the rest of Mexico. In terms of technology, Indian towns in Chiapas have missed out on many of the advances since the Mexican Revolution. Men use hand tools to plant corn; women sit weaving at flexible waist-height looms and mill corn on stones near wood fires.

Many are governed by councils of elders, like Vazquez, with a proven record of allegiance to their community. Their meetings are respectful, with almost no Western-style debate.

Elders sum up the collective experience; no one interrupts. Younger people add their bit to the discussion and, at some point, a decision is reached, sometimes by a vote but more often by a spirit of consensus.

Tasks like road maintenance and construction projects are handled communally, with each able-bodied male expected to show up for a certain number of days each month. Land rights are often held by the group, not the individual.

Rare instances of petty theft are treated harshly -- elders often impose a spell in a primitive township jail, for example -- because they are viewed as crimes not against individual property, but against the community.

The Indian legislation now before Congress would give legal status to some of those practices.

Some customs grate on modern-day sensibilities. Indian communities often exclude women from decision-making and are treat them as second-class citizens.

Galvez said ancient customs should be respected "in so far as they don't affect the rights of others," particularly women's rights. She also sees a need for the government to help Indians, but bridles at the idea of "integration."

"That has always meant `I'll exterminate your culture, your language, in the name of my idea of development,"' she said.

Instead, she touts a plan to help Indians exploit their own strengths in traditional medicine, organic farming and other fields to escape poverty.

Just how poor they are is illustrated by Fox's goal of reducing the level of malnutrition among Indian children from 41 percent to 30 percent.



Exciting times in the nation of Mexico


Al Giordano, Publisher
January 29, 2001
The Narco News Bulletin


Dear Colleagues and members of the Press,

These are exciting times in the nation of Mexico.

In the coming weeks, a massive caravan will leave from the Southernmost state of Chiapas on February 25th and head toward Mexico City.

It will pass through 12 of Mexico's 32 states on the way, and, a month in advance, more than 12,000 Mexican and International observers have already signed up to accompany the 25 members of the Zapatista General Command, including Subcomandante Marcos, on this journey.

The caravan comes to demand compliance with the San Andres Peace Accords signed by the Mexican government and the Indigenous rebels in 1996. The federal government still has not complied with this agreement it signed.

The moment that comes is akin to Gandhi's Salt March, or Martin Luther King's convocation of the immortal "I have a dream" rally on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. In sum, 10 percent of Mexico's 96 million people are indigenous and are demanding Constitutional recognition of their autonomy rights. And with a proper international response by Civil Society, the new Fox government in Mexico will have no choice but to comply with a treaty already signed.

The Indigenous National Congress (CNI in its Spanish acronym) represents 50 of the 56 native ethnic groups in Mexico. Its elder, don Andres Vasquez de Santiago, 90, is "of counsel" to Narco News and has asked us to make the maximum effort to let the world know what is happening in Mexico.

We have just translated to key documents from the Indigenous National Congress: http://www.narconews.com/cni.html

This is added to our ongoing coverage of the Zapatista Caravan: http://www.narconews.com/zapatistacaravan.html

This page includes links to a translation of the San Andres Accords and an analysis of their significance regarding drug policy.

Five hundred years of repression, persecution and injustice may be about to fall and give way to a new era for the indigenous peoples of Mexico.

We ask that you please distribute widely the information, and consider accompanying at least part of this globally historic event February 25th through March 11th.

Finally, to Authentic Journalists, activists and citizens we repeat our call to collaborate in extensive global and daily coverage of this historic caravan.

salud y abrazo,

Al Giordano



Mexico Rebels Plan March to Capital

January 8, 2001
by The Associated Press

SAN CRISTOBAL DE LAS CASAS, Mexico (AP) -- The leader of Mexico's Zapatista rebels plans to lead a march from the southern state of Chiapas to the capital to lobby Congress for the passage of an Indian-rights bill.

In a statement released Monday, Subcomandante Marcos said he will take 25 of his followers on his first trip to Mexico City since the Zapatista uprising that shook the country to its core seven years ago.

Marcos first announced he would make the trip last month, when he responded to new president Vicente Fox's peace initiatives by announcing he would travel to Mexico City to seek an agreement on Indian rights.

The rebels plan to leave Feb. 25 from San Cristobal de las Casas, 460 miles southeast of Mexico City, and travel through nine states before reaching the capital on March 6, the statement said.

They expect to be joined by sympathizers along the way, said the statement, which was dated Jan. 6 and signed by Marcos. He said the rebels will march in the ski masks that have become their movement's symbol.

The Zapatista National Liberation Army, an overwhelmingly Indian rebel force, emerged from the jungle on Jan. 1, 1994, and briefly captured six Chiapas towns. A cease-fire took hold 12 days later after more than 145 deaths.

But peace talks stalled and Chiapas festered, with repeated clashes between pro- and anti-rebel factions. The rebel demands mixed socialist economics with calls for democracy, development and respect for long-oppressed Indians.

In February 1996, an agreement with the Zapatistas on more autonomy for Indians collapsed when then-President Ernesto Zedillo balked, saying it ould endanger Mexico's sovereignty over its land and resources.

Fox, the first Mexican president from an opposition party in more than 70 years, took office on Dec. 1 with a pledge to renew peace talks.

Since his inauguration, Fox has withdrawn troops from two military bases, released 17 Zapatista prisoners and submitted the Indian-rights bill to Congress.

The rebels have said they are encouraged by the new president's actions, but have called for the release of all Zapatista prisoners and the closure of more military bases in Chiapas.

In an interview published Monday in the newspaper La Jornada, Marcos said the rebels have no desire to return to arms.

"We want to replace our weapons and convert our poverty into an instrument that we can use to fight for liberty and democracy," he said.

Copyright 2000 The New York Times Company


Zapatista rebels open information center in Chiapas

MEXICO CITY, Jan 4 (Reuters) - Mexico's media-savvy Zapatista guerrillas have opened an information clearinghouse to press the government on rebel demands for resuming peace talks, rebel leader subcommander Marcos said this week.

In a communique dated Wednesday, Marcos announced formation of the Zapatista Information Center (CIZ) in southern Chiapas state. The center will serve as a bridge between civil society and the Zapatista rebels, who took up arms on Jan. 1, 1994, to fight for the rights of Mexico's 10 million indigenous people.

The aim of the new center is to join rebel and civil forces in pressuring the government to meet three key rebel conditions for returning to peace talks stalled since 1996: withdrawal of federal troops from seven military bases around the conflict zone in Chiapas; freedom of Zapatista prisoners; and enactment into law of the 1996 San Andres accords on indigenous rights.

Meanwhile, action by groups of Zapatistas and sympathizers continued against those they view as their oppressors -- mainly soldiers and officials from the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) which ruled Mexico from 1929 until 2000.

Two hooded Indians armed with rifles took over Zinacantan village, 56 miles (90 km) from Chiapas state capital Tuxtla Gutierrez on Thursday, with the backing of some 500 sympathizers from the leftist Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD).

The mainly indigenous demonstrators locked the mayoralty building with chains and padlocks in a peaceful protest against incumbent PRI mayor Andres Sanchez, whom they accused of violating their customs.

The Indians leading the protest were dressed in black and wore ski masks similar to those worn by the Zapatistas although they did not identify themselves as such.

The incident comes just days after some 700 hooded men, women and children marched on a military base deep in rebel territory on Dec. 31 demanding troops leave the zone. President Vicente Fox ordered the soldiers out of the area in a goodwill gesture.

Marcos and a delegation of Zapatista commanders are scheduled to visit Mexico City in February to lobby lawmakers on the indigenous rights bill, sent to Congress by Fox days after he took office on Dec. 1.

Fox has indicated a willingness to meet the other conditions as well, supporting the release of 17 rebels held in Chiapas jails over the weekend. Since he catapulted onto the international stage as leader of the Zapatista movement, Marcos has capitalized on worldwide information technology, firing off poetic communiques over the Internet in a war often based more on propaganda than military strategy.

Some 200 people died in initial combat surrounding the uprising. Dozens to hundreds more have since been killed in violence between Zapatista supporters and their rivals, traditionally associated with the long-ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party deposed by Fox.

Marcos said the CIZ, based in the colonial city San Cristobal de Las Casas in the Indian highlands, would not be used as a press office for the rebel army but as a place to exchange information with the national and international communities..

20:22 01-04-01
Copyright 2001 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of Reuters content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Reuters. Reuters shall not be liable for any errors or delays in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon.


Fox: Military To Stay in Chiapas

January 3, 2001

MEXICO CITY (AP) - Despite the recent withdrawal of troops from key areas, the military will remain in Mexico's troubled Chiapas state to fight drug smuggling along its southern border with Guatemala, President Vicente Fox said.

Nonetheless, Fox said Tuesday, he will do everything possible to woo Zapatista rebels to the negotiating table and end a seven-year conflict in Mexico's poorest state.

"We are not going to slow down in doing our share for a solution," Fox said during a press conference. "I will not rest until we have reached peace in Chiapas through dialogue and negotiation."

The rebels led a brief uprising beginning Jan. 1, 1994 in the name of Indian rights. Since then, pro- and anti-rebel factions have often sparred. Peace talks have been stalled since 1996.

On Sunday, Fox ordered the closure of a military base just yards from a key rebel stronghold, the second military base ordered to shut down in little over a week. A day earlier, the government released 17 guerrilla prisoners.

Rebels said they appreciated the actions but would settle for nothing less than the closure of all seven bases located near rebel strongholds.


Chiapas peace? Not quite...

To the Zapatistas of the world,
whatever you may call yourselves,
wherever you may be...

Today, the 1st of January of 2001, the Zapatista movement in the U.S. begins its seventh year of struggle. We would like to thank all of the groups and individuals who have shared or supported our efforts, and invite you to continue with us in the creation of the better world we are looking for not only in Chiapas, but in the whole world.

We would like to recognize publicly that the National Commission for Democracy in Mexico does not represent all of the Zapatista support groups in the U.S. Many groups have decided to work independently of us, and others, who have also contributed a great deal, do not call themselves "Zapatista" groups at all, but work under the banners of human rights, indigenous rights, or as organizations in solidarity with all of Mexico. In any case, the National Commission continues, since 1994, to comprise a network of pro-Zapatista groups extending from one coast of the U.S. to the other.

We extend a hand to the fighters and dreamers of all of the other countries where human dignity, and the united strength that will one day change the world, is being built, day by day, and often at incredible cost. We are inspired by the messages we receive telling of your struggles and battles; they let us know that we are part of something worldwide, global, which is nothing less that the struggle for humanization.

It saddens us to know that our own government is one of the prinicipal obstacles to be overcome. We hope that you who live in other countries can distinguish between the government of the U.S., and the people, who can no longer control their government. Here in the U.S., as in other countries, the governmental processes have been sold. Only with the rebirth of a true democracy, where we all have a voice and a vote, can there be the possiblity of ending the reign of capital, and installing a social system based on human, not economic, values. That is our challenge, and today we rededicate ourselves to the struggle.

We send a special salute to the Zapatista Army of National Liberation who, seven years ago today, lit in our hearts the star of hope, and to the men, women, elders, and children of the communities who support them, and who have endured with such courage and firmness these years of low intensity war.

We salute as well all of the others who struggle, on all of the continents, for a new world based on human dignity. We are with you all! For the National Commission,

Mario Galva'n

The National Commission for Democracy in Mexico (NCDM)
La Comision Nacional por la Democracia en Mexico (CNDM)
909 12th St. #118, Sacramento, CA 95814, U.S.A
E-mail: moonlight@igc.org, Tel: (916) 443-3424, Fax: (916) 448-7159


Fox's plan for Chiapas peace is suspect
Report suggests president is following military blueprint

Linda Diebel
Toronto Star
Jan. 1 2001

MEXICO CITY - As the Chiapas rebel uprising in southern Mexico moves into its seventh year this week, President Vicente Fox faces increasing obstacles to his promise of peace. That promise - a highlight of his presidential campaign - got off to a hopeful start with the closing of two military bases in the conflict zone and an optimistic response from Zapatista leader Subcomandante Marcos.

Shortly after Fox's Dec. 1 inauguration, Marcos sent word from his base in the Chiapas jungle he plans to travel to Mexico City for peace talks with Fox sometime this February.

This week, however, amid growing criticism of Fox from the Zapatista high command, the newsmagazine Milenio published an explosive leaked army memorandum.

It couldn't come at a worse time in the delicate peace process. The excerpts suggest the new president is using the army plan - hammered out last fall in the highest ranks of the Mexican military - as a blueprint for his Chiapas peace strategy. Far from promoting good will, the secret report, entitled Chiapas 2000, poisons the peace process.

It slams Marcos and besmirches the newly-elected governor of Chiapas. It accuses a former Mexico City mayor of funnelling public money to the Zapatista rebels and attacks a retired Chiapas Roman Catholic bishop, various Jesuit clergy, international aid organizations and national and international media for conspiracy with the rebels, some knowingly, some unwittingly.

The army document also says there has been extensive activity by foreign intelligence networks in Chiapas, including the Central Intelligence Agency, the Israeli Mossad and Cuba's G2.

A presidential spokesperson said last night that "since the beginning of his campaign, Fox has said he wants to find a peaceful solution for Chiapas. The fact that there are several proposals (out there) means that society as a whole is working for a peaceful solution. It doesn't mean Fox is following one specific plan," she said, referring to the military report on Chiapas.

That report recommends Fox appoint Luis Alvarez, a veteran from his own National Action Party, as Chiapas peace negotiator. Fox made the announcement just a few weeks later. It also urges him to strategically withdraw troops from the region, while relying on other federal forces to fill the gap and without jeopardizing real security in a state critical for its oil, hydro and mineral resources. Fox has done so, closing two of five bases, the most recent on Sunday.

Rebel commanders say Fox isn't moving fast enough. "Each one of those bases represents an affront to the desire for peace of the vast majority of Mexicans and the tens of thousands of people from other countries," Zapatista Comandante David said this week.

Asked why he isn't closing other bases, Fox replied, "one by one."

"We will keep doing whatever we have to do to return to the negotiating table. Every action we take is to arrive at a dialogue. We are not playing games. We are serious about peace."

Mexican President Vicente Fox

"We will keep doing whatever we have to do to return to the negotiating table," he told a news conference this week at the presidential palace, Los Pinos.

"Every action we take is to arrive at a dialogue. We are not playing games. We are serious about peace."

Most important, says the army report, Fox must get rid of the public perception that various power groups, from the Zapatistas to local politicians, are the ones calling the shots in Chiapas. He must be seen dealing directly with the indigenous population, making sure people know aid projects come thanks to "the will of President Vicente Fox in response to the just petitions of our indigenous Chiapas brothers."

Fox is the first president in Mexico since 1929 who is not from the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). He was elected with strong hope he could end the war in Chiapas.

However, the Mexican army is hardly seen as a good public ally for someone trying to end a conflict being waged on behalf of indigenous rights in Mexico's poorest state. An estimated 10,000 troops have occupied Chiapas since 1994. Relations with indigenous communities have been poor. The army is accused of turning a blind eye to paramilitary attacks on villages.

Soldiers have been repeatedly linked to human rights abuses against the indigenous population, including a report issued Tuesday by a Chiapas-based church group. The report accuses former Chiapas bishop Samuel Ruiz, a Nobel Peace Prize nominee, of conspiring with the Zapatistas, alleging he worked with rebels for years before their Jan. 1, 1994 uprising.

The report, circulated among active generals, urges the Fox government to petition Pope John Paul II to replace Jesuit clergy in Chiapas who were appointed by Ruiz. It says they actively oppose Ruiz' successor. Soldiers have been repeatedly linked to human rights abuses against the indigenous population, including a report issued Tuesday by a Chiapas-based church group.

It notes, too, that Chiapas Gov. Pablo Salazar from the PRI, once a lawyer for the Ruiz diocese in Chiapas, can't be trusted as an advocate of peace in the southern state. It says he is "using the Chiapas conflict as a stepping stone to achieve his own objective" - a run for the presidency in 2006. And, it urges Fox officials to use the media to expose Marcos for what he is - "not a rebel defender of indigenous rights, but a law-breaker ... who has enriched himself immensely by illicit activities detected and documented by the government's intelligence organs."


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