Marcos Takes Spotlight in Mexico
- News for Anarchists & Activists:
Rebel Steals Mexican's Spotlight
By Kevin Sullivan
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday , December 1, 2000 ; Page A28
MEXICO CITY, Nov. 30 The Mexican guerrilla leader known
as Subcommander Marcos has surfaced on the eve of
President-elect Vicente Fox's inauguration, blasting
outgoing President Ernesto Zedillo as a "nightmare" and
threatening to provide Fox with the first major challenge of
In an open letter to Zedillo written from Marcos's hideout
in "the mountains of southeast Mexico," the ski-masked rebel
leader accused Zedillo of aggravating the six-year-old rebel
uprising in Chiapas, Mexico's southernmost state on the
border with Guatemala.
Marcos said Zedillo waged war rather than negotiating with
the rebels, specifically blaming Zedillo for the massacre of
45 indigenous women and children by paramilitary units in
the town of Acteal in December 1997.
"You did everything you could to destroy us, and we
resisted," wrote Marcos, who had made no public statements
since Fox was elected July 2. "You will go into exile, and
we are still here."
Marcos has reappeared on the public scene at a delicate time
for Fox, as heads of state and business leaders from around
the world arrive for his inauguration Friday.
Fox has pledged to resolve the Chiapas conflict. Immediately
after his swearing-in, he is expected to announce a partial
withdrawal of army troops from the conflict area, as well as
economic aid for Chiapas's impoverished Indians. Fox also
intends to announce government support for a 1994 peace
accord with the rebels that Zedillo's government failed to
But while Marcos offered no criticism of Fox in his letter,
he offered no support either, despite Fox's repeated pledges
to negotiate with his Zapatista rebels. "For us, the
nightmare ends today," Marcos said of Zedillo's term.
"Another could follow, or it could be a new dawn."
Fox has been criticized for raising public expectations
unrealistically with promises on a broad range of issues,
including Chiapas. A rebuke by Marcos could add to Fox's
problems in his first days in office.
"It's really going to be the first challenge to his campaign
promises," said Beatriz Mariscal Hay, a professor at Colegio
On a weekend when Fox will be crisscrossing the country
celebrating his inauguration, Marcos, who has a flair for
the dramatic, has stolen some of Fox's thunder by inviting
the media to a news conference in the Chiapas jungle on
Fox will use part of his inaugural address to respond to
Marcos's letter, said Luis H. Alvarez, Fox's adviser on the
Chiapas conflict. Alvarez praised Marcos and the Zapatistas
for keeping the plight of Mexico's indigenous people in the
public eye. "We have to keep in mind our obligation to
lighten the load for millions of our Mexican brothers," he
The rebels have lost considerable public support since they
began their movement with an armed uprising in Chiapas on
New Year's Day 1994. While many Mexicans remain sympathetic
to the issues that led to the uprising--particularly the
extreme poverty in much of the state--Marcos and his rebels
have lost much of the romantic luster they once had. Many
Mexicans simply want the conflict resolved.
Still, human rights groups say violence in Chiapas has
worsened since the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or
PRI, was toppled in the July elections. Fox is the first
non-PRI president in 71 years, and Chiapas also elected its
first non-PRI governor in decades, Pablo Salazar, who takes
office Dec. 8.
"There is clear evidence that the situation in Chiapas is
rapidly deteriorating," Amnesty International said recently.
"Entire communities have been displaced, and many people
within the region have seen their loved ones face violent
death, arbitrary detention, torture, disappearance and death
Human rights activist Sylvia Aguilera Garcia said that many
of the paramilitary groups responsible for the worst
violence in the Chiapas conflict have been controlled by the
PRI. Now that the party is no longer in power, "We are
afraid there will be no control over paramilitary groups,"
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