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Sender: owner-imap@webmap.missouri.edu
Date: Sun, 4 Jan 98 14:17:54 CST
From: Michael Eisenscher <meisenscher@igc.apc.org>
Subject: WHC REPORT PART 8 (2/2); Massacre Survivors
Article: 24986

Zapatista Backers March for Acteal

By Niko Price, AP, Thursday 1 January 1998; 9:38 p.m. EST

SAN CRISTOBAL DE LAS CASAS, Mexico (AP)—On the fourth anniversary of the Zapatista rebel uprising, sympathizers marched Thursday in this highlands city to celebrate the rebellion and mourn 45 people massacred in nearby Acteal.

But unlike a loud and colorful march in Mexico City by some 4,000 Mexicans, only about 100 people took to the streets of this colonial city—about half of them foreigners.

Where are the San Cristobal people? There are only Americans here, said Carmen Ramirez, 34, whose husband is a soldier. Their 1-year-old son clung to her shoulder. The people of San Cristobal support the army being here, because they bring calm.

Unlike tens of thousands of subsistence farmers in the surrounding mountains who provide the support base for Zapatista rebels, many of the 116,500 residents of this colonial city have strongly supported Mexico's government and participated in demonstrations against Roman Catholic leaders sympathetic to the rebel cause.

Ramirez's mother-in-law, Gloria Flores, said she believed foreign supporters of the Zapatista rebels are bringing arms into the region, and she said the government should deport them all.

Outside a church, young Americans, Italians and Germans—some of them wearing red headbands and white tunics—said they were marching in solidarity with the poor Maya Indians who make up one-third of the population in southern Chiapas state and accounted for all the victims of the Dec. 22 massacre in Acteal, a hamlet 25 miles away.

Survivors of the attack blamed supporters of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party. About 40 people have been arrested, most of them PRI members.

In the youth hostels throughout Mexico, people are talking about Chiapas, said Mike Ferry, 37, of Santa Cruz, Calif., who arrived here in the days after the massacre.

It's hard to get an accurate idea of what's really happening, but I'm definitely in support of indigenous people and their rights.

In Mexico City, protesters who marched to the city center Thursday demanded that the 35,000 army troops in Chiapas leave the state and that those responsible for the massacre be punished.

Marchers, including a group of about 40 Indian women in red embroidered robes, chanted Chiapas is not a barracks, get the army out! and (President) Zedillo murders women and children.

The protesters, some of whom wore Zapatista-style bandanas, carried 45 small cardboard coffins symbolizing the victims of the Acteal massacre, to the tune of Indian drums and flutes.

We are demanding the government disarm the paramilitaries, said Angel Perez Delgado, a schoolteacher and march organizer.

The Zapatistas rose up on Jan. 1, 1994, to demand economic and political reform in the impoverished state. Fighting over the next two weeks killed at least 145 people.

The impact of the rebellion was felt nationwide. Hundreds of thousands of Mexicans marched in support of the rebels.

Since then, Peace talks have stalled and rebel villages have become surrounded by at least 35,000 federal troops scattered across Chiapas' mountains and canyons.

The massacre in Acteal, however, could mark a turning of the tables in the rebels' public relations war—the only field where the outnumbered and outgunned insurgents have strength.

Many of the foreigners said they attend meetings in their countries to talk about the situation in Chiapas, and came to Mexico after the massacre to lend moral support.

There are a lot of Europeans who are more interested in these cultures than Mexicans themselves, said Lucy Santoro, 34, of Brindisi, Italy.

Santoro belongs to Yankuikanahuak International, a locally based group supporting the rights of poor farmers.

The Zapatista rebels celebrated their anniversary late Wednesday in Oventic, a village 15 miles north of here. They and their supporters shot off fireworks and danced late into the night.

The guerrillas vowed not to give up their demand for improved conditions for the region's Indians.

We will not surrender, said a Zapatista leader known as Comandante David.