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Date: Mon, 25 May 98 01:02:33 CDT
From: SISIS@envirolink.org (S.I.S.I.S.)
Subject: Mex Nat Indig Congress calls for uprising
Article: 35634
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Message-ID: <bulk.25234.19980526121553@chumbly.math.missouri.edu>

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Thu, 21 May 1998 07:52:34 -0400 (EDT)
From: Mauricio Banda <mbanda@dch.mty.itesm.mx>
Reply-To: mexico2000@mep-d.org
To: Multiple Recipients of List Mexico2000 <mexico2000@mep-d.org>
Subject: [IrishT] Congress calls uprising to protect districts

Congress calls uprising to protect districts

The Irish Times, Wednesday 20 May 1998

Mexico's indigenous people rallied to the cause of the Chiapas rebels last week, announcing the creation of Zapatista-style autonomous districts in five states which stretch halfway across the country.

I will finish off the autonomous municipalities, warned Chiapas governor Roberto Albores Guillen, after dismantling the second of 38 Zapatista rebel districts.

Mexico's National Indigenous Congress (CNI), with representatives of Mexico's 56 indigenous peoples, responded by calling for a national uprising and the creation of autonomous districts beyond Chiapas.

Members of Mexico's Mixtec, Chontal, Huasteca, Chinanteco and Nahuatl indigenous peoples immediately announced plans to set up autonomous districts in Tabasco, Hidalgo, Michoacan, Guerrero and even Mexico City, citing the nation's constitution as the legal basis for the initiative.

We're fed up being obliged to vote for the PRI (Mexico's ruling party) in return for road works and healthcare, said Ms Laura Garcia Vazquez, a Mixtec leader from Guerrero state. She was accompanied by 2,000 Mixtec Indians and 70 bilingual teachers, who declared nearby Rancho Nuevo Democracia an autonomous district, uniting 30 Mixtec villages.

In Atlapexco, Hidalgo state, a coalition of independent indigenous organisations also took steps to establish their own autonomous district, arguing that local authority offices were located too far from their villages and that imposed authorities failed to respond to local needs.

It's the only hope we have of living in peace, said Mr Jaime Cortes, a Huasteca Indian leader. Over 100 Huasteca villagers have been killed in the past two decades, with 500 imprisoned in 1980 alone, in an ongoing struggle for recognition of communal lands.

Mexico's constitution permits the establishment of new municipalities once five legal requirements are fulfilled. The law demands political, economic and social viability for the proposed district, but final approval rests with each state congress, where the ruling party has until now enjoyed a clear majority.

The centre-left Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), led by Mexico City Mayor Cuauhtemoc Cardenas, criticised the dissolution of Zapatista rebel districts and promised to back the proposed autonomous zones around the country.

In Nezahualcoyotl, a working-class suburb of Mexico City with 800,000 inhabitants, Zapatista supporters petitioned the government this week for a referendum to consider converting the suburb into an autonomous district, a request repeated in San Nicolas Ecatepec, also in Mexico State.

In Tabasco, north of Chiapas, Auldarico Hernandez, PRD deputy and Chontal Indian, announced the creation of three autonomous municipalities in his electoral district, describing the move as a direct response to army aggression against Zapatista communities in Chiapas state.

At least 60,000 Mexican troops have pinned down Zapatista rebels inside their jungle bases while 300 fires sent billowing clouds of smoke toward Zapatista communities, destroying coffee plants and obliging hundreds of villagers to seek medical attention for respiratory ailments.

The nationwide autonomy fever came just as Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo criticised foreign observers for focusing on Chiapas's indigenous population and neglecting the 'advances' of other indigenous peoples.

Mexico is not one state, nor is it one problem, and it is not all Chiapas, Mr Zedillo told Mexicans last Thursday, as events once more outpaced his words.

Interior Minister Francisco Labastida also announced plans to modify rules for human rights observers visiting Chiapas. This followed a chaotic visit by 135 Italians, 40 of whom were expelled for going to Taniperlas, a rebel administration dismantled a month ago.

From now on observer groups cannot exceed 10 members, may stay a maximum of 10 days in the country, and must inform the government of the places and people they intend to interview. The US-based Human Rights Watch denounced the new rules..

If observers are deemed to have broken the rules they will be subject to deportation or community service work, such as three days of road-sweeping, Mexico's Interior Ministry warned this week.

With a little luck we may end up fighting forest fires in Zapatista territory, joked one departing Italian last Monday. Five Canadian parliamentarians arrived the same day, continuing the close monitoring of the Chiapas conflict, which remains the defining issue in Mexican politics.