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Zapatista Rebels To Return To Peace Talks

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  • Clore Daniel C
    News for Anarchists & Activists: http://www.egroups.com/group/smygo Zapatista rebels have decided to return to peace talks BBC December 3, 2000 Mexico s
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 5, 2000
      News for Anarchists & Activists:

      Zapatista rebels have decided to return to peace talks

      December 3, 2000

      Mexico's Zapatista rebels have decided to return to peace

      The move follows the new administration's withdrawal of
      troops from key areas in the southern state of Chiapas,
      where Zapatista rebels led a bloody uprising six years ago.

      The Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) took up arms
      on New Year's Day 1994, demanding improved rights for
      Mexico's 10 million indigenous people.

      Peace talks broke down in 1996 after the government declined
      to ratify the San Andres peace accords, brokered after
      months of tough negotiations.

      Mexico's new President Vicente Fox, on being sworn in on
      Friday, said the first project he would send Congress would
      be a law implementing the San Andres accords, which would
      grant indigenous communities more autonomy, and the right to
      their own customs, languages and traditions.

      "There will never again be a Mexico without you. In Mexico
      and in Chiapas, there will be a new dawn," said Mr Fox, 58.

      Mr Fox, of the conservative National Action Party (PAN) won
      the presidential elections in July, thereby casting off the
      71-year stranglehold on the national government by the
      ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).

      Critics had long accused the PRI of keeping the impoverished
      southern Chiapas state and its Indians in the Dark Ages,
      prolonging a feudal system established after the Spanish
      Conquest of the 1500s.

      Welcome the dawn

      The Zapatista leader, Subcomandante Marcos, faced mutiny
      within his own movement in October for refusing to hold
      talks with the then-president-elect Fox, who made a number
      of public overtures to resume direct dialogue between the
      rebels and government.

      On Saturday, however, he seemed prepared to "welcome the
      dawn" of new relations between the government and the
      rebels, in response to Mr Fox's declarations at his

      He said: "The war is not over yet, but the door is open."

      Subcomandante Marcos said he would travel to Mexico City to
      urge Congress to pass the bill granting rights to indigenous

      Mr Fox also plans to sign a technical co-operation agreement
      with UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson,
      which was rejected by the administration of former President
      Ernesto Zedillo.

      A draft of the accord made available to the news agency AFP
      calls for:

      * strengthening government agencies dealing with human
      * training forensic doctors capable of investigating torture
      * a national dialogue on the plight of indigenous Mexicans.

      Mr Fox, a former Coca-Cola executive, has promised to lead
      Mexico with a government marked by "transparency" and
      "accountability" and make the plight of the country's poor a
      central concern of his administration.

      Mexico Zapatista To Restart Talks

      December 2, 2000
      By Will Weissert
      Associated Press Writer

      LA REALIDAD, Mexico -- The leader of Mexico's Zapatista
      rebels said Saturday that he would come out of hiding in the
      southern jungle and travel to Mexico City to restart peace
      talks that have been stalled since 1996.

      The ski-masked Subcomandante Marcos made the statement a day
      after Mexico's new president ordered a push for peace,
      pulling back some troops from Zapatista strongholds and
      sending a rebel-backed Indian rights bill to Congress.

      In a news conference deep in the southern Lacandon Jungle,
      Marcos said he was still distrustful of President Vicente
      Fox, whose inauguration on Friday ended a 71-year string of
      presidents from the same party. However, he said, Fox's
      first actions were encouraging, "a sign of better
      compromises to come."

      Smoking a pipe through his ski mask and with an AR-15 rifle
      strapped to his back, Marcos said he would travel in
      February to the capital with his top commanders in an effort
      to ensure that Congress approves the Indian rights bill. He
      said it would be his first time out of the jungle in 15

      "We will go and we will see what happens," he said. "We are
      leaving to do the work our companions are counting on us to
      do: to bring this war to an end."

      Comment from the government was not immediately available.

      The Zapatistas walked out of talks with the government of
      outgoing President Ernesto Zedillo four years ago when he
      balked at the language of the Indian rights bill proposed by
      a Congressional committee.

      The bill, backed by the rebels, was supposed to implement
      the only substantive agreement so far between the two sides,
      which have maintained a wary cease-fire since January 1994.

      The Zapatistas, a leftist, predominantly Indian group, also
      have repeatedly demanded a pullback of the tens of thousands
      of troops in the areas where the rebels are influential.

      Fox, in his first action as president, sent the rejected
      Indian rights bill to Congress for approval, and ordered
      troops to withdraw from sensitive spots in Chiapas and to
      dismantle roadblocks.

      "The new dialogue begins with deeds, not words. The new
      dialogue speaks with the sincerity of actions," read a
      communique signed by Fox's interior secretary, Santiago
      Creel, and his Chiapas aide, Luis H. Alvarez.

      In La Realidad, Marcos said he approved of Alvarez as a
      negotiator. As a federal senator in 1996, Alvarez had
      helped negotiate the Indian rights bill.

      Marcos said Fox's actions showed good will, but that he was
      distrustful of the pro-business president.

      Marcos said he wouldn't let the new president turn Mexico
      into "a giant department store ... where human lives and
      natural resources are bought and sold as the market

      Then he addressed Fox directly:

      "During your campaign, you have said time and again that you
      are willing to reopen dialogue. Zedillo said the same thing
      ... then launched a major offensive against us."

      The rights bill would grant Indian communities more control
      over their territory and the right to make laws and elect
      officials according to their traditional customs. The
      Zedillo administration had opposed the part about land
      control, saying it endangered national sovereignty.

      Marcos said the Zapatistas aren't interested in seizing
      power. He said if the war were to end, they would form a
      political organization, but not a political party.

      Asked why not, he said: "First of all, because we'd lose."

      With Saturday's meeting, the offbeat rebel leader proved
      that he can still draw a small army of international
      journalists to this muddy mix of rusted roof shacks and
      outhouses with little more than a pledge to show up.

      His presence still commands the attention of his country and
      the world, even almost seven years after he led a rebellion
      that lasted less than two weeks.

      Fox made Chiapas a priority of his new administration, and
      during the campaign had bragged - in what was much
      criticized as bravado - that he could solve the Chiapas
      problem in 15 minutes.

      While he may be prone to exaggeration, Saturday's
      developments showed more progress than the previous
      government had made in at least four years.

      The communique from Fox's government said the withdrawal of
      troops and the lifting of checkpoints would "generate a
      climate favorable to renewing negotiations" to end the

      Military and immigration officials had used the checkpoints
      to prevent movement of weapons in a region where clashes
      between pro- and anti-Zapatista factions are common.

      They also tried to hamper support for the rebels. Foreign
      backers of the rebels were sometimes deported on grounds of
      interfering in local politics after being stopped at the

      The government said it ordered the checkpoints dismantled
      and the troops out of the camps alongside those checkpoints.
      But reporters on Saturday found many soldiers were still
      stationed in the roadside camps.

      Creel, traveling with Fox in the neighboring state of Oaxaca
      on Saturday, told The Associated Press that the soldiers
      would eventually withdraw.

      Fox Orders Withdrawal of 53 Checkpoints in Three Chiapas

      La Jornada
      December 2, 2000
      Elio Henríquez, correspondent and David Aponte.

      President Fox ordered the Mexican Army to withdraw the 53
      checkpoints it has been maintaining in Los Altos, the North
      and the Caqadas of Chiapas, several official sources
      reported yesterday.

      Since yesterday morning, Mexican Army forces who had been
      located in different places in Chiapas received instructions
      to lift their camps and highway checkpoints and to assemble
      in their barracks, noted a communiqué from the Department of
      Government in Mexico City.

      The document, signed by the head of the department, Santiago
      Creel Miranda, and the commissioner for the Negotiation of
      Peace in Chiapas, Luis H. Alvarez, noted that "the purpose
      of this action is to reiterate the government's full
      readiness to meet, in the shortest possible time, with
      representatives of the EZLN, and in that way create a
      favorable climate for renewal of negotiations for a solid
      and lasting peace in Chiapas."

      General Carlos Enrique Adán Yabur, commander of the 31st
      Military Region with headquarters in Rancho Nuevo,
      municipality of San Cristobal de las Casas, explained that
      the control points, which had been set up at different times
      in order to enforce the Federal Firearms and Explosives Law,
      were withdrawn Friday afternoon and evening.

      Adán Yabur reported that the order which was received was to
      withdraw the control and search positions, known as
      checkpoints, but he denied any other kind of mobilization.
      He said that the positions located in Guadalupe Tepeyac,
      Vicente Guerrero and Nuevo Momón, in the municipality of Las
      Margaritas, as well as the one at Rancho Nuevo, had already
      been lifted.

      According to Federal Highway Police sources, the checkpoint
      which had been located in the military region of Rancho
      Nuevo - the one closest to San Cristóbal - was "dismantled"
      at 9:00 PM, and "the only thing they [the soldiers] said was
      that they had orders to assemble and to allow free transit."
      At that hour, the soldiers began turning off the lights and
      other equipment which they used 24 hours a day.

      Another town which the soldiers left was Amador Hernández,
      where last August there was a confrontation with rocks and
      sticks between EZLN sympathizers and military police,
      leaving seven slightly wounded.

      Adán Yabur refrained from commenting about any
      repositioning, since he had no knowledge in that regard, and
      he reiterated that the above-mentioned positions were the
      ones which had already been eliminated, which does not mean
      that the Army has taken new positions.

      In the country's capital, the Coordinator for National
      Security, Adolfo Aguilar Zinser, confirmed the withdrawal of
      troops in the conflict zone in Chiapas.

      Prior to entering the Bosque of Chapultepec in order to
      participate in the banquet being offered by the head of the
      Executive for his guests at Castillo Palace, the official
      said: "Yes, I am aware of this, Don Luis H. Alvarez
      (Commissioner for Peace) and Santiago Creel (Secretary of
      Government) have commented on it."

      In another interview, Aguilar Zinser noted: "In effect it is
      taking place at this moment (the withdrawal). We already
      have reports of the withdrawal of positions that the Army
      has been occupying."

      In his role as Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, Fox
      established the repositioning of troops on the eve of the
      EZLN's stating its position regarding the new administration
      the PANista has headed since yesterday, stated Fox
      government officials initially, who requested anonymity.

      Meanwhile, the Enlace Civil organization indicated that
      troops are gathering around San Quintín - 25 kilometers from
      La Realidad, where the EZLN will be holding its press
      conference today - in Maravilla Tenejapa and in the 31st
      Military Region headquarters in Ocosingo.

      Just this Tuesday the Commissioner for the Negotiation of
      Peace in Chiapas, Luis H. Alvarez, released the news to La
      Jornada of the imminent withdrawal of troops in Chiapas,
      because the presence of troops in the state is excessive.

      Alvarez indicated that, since chiapanecos feel "harassed,"
      the Army would be withdrawn to positions where "social peace
      would be guaranteed, but they would not act as an additional
      element in disturbing it."

      After President Fox presided over the parade presented to
      him by the armed forces in Campo Marte, the Under Secretary
      for National Defense, Mario Palmerín, was questioned on the
      issue. He confined himself to responding that it is an issue
      that "belongs directly to the General Secretary" Ricardo
      Clemente Vega García.

      Yesterday, during his inaugural speech, President Vicente
      Fox reported that his first government act in legislative
      matters would be sending the Congress of the Union next
      week, "as a legislative proposal, the document drawn up by
      the Cocopa which summarizes the San Andrés Accords," which
      were signed by the previous government and the EZLN, but
      which the head - until last Thursday - of the Federal
      Government had refused to ratify.

      Originally published in Spanish by La Jornada. Translated by

      Dan Clore

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