Mexico rebels reject format for Congress talks
MEXICO CITY, Mexico (Reuters) -- Mexican rebel leader Subcommander Marcos
Tuesday night turned down a plan proposed by Congress for talks on an Indian rights law,
following the Zapatistas triumphal march on Mexico City.
The Congress plan proposed that a commission of 10 senators and 10 members
the lower house would receive the 24 EZLN (Zapatista National Liberation Army)
commanders in the Upper House. It was presented to the rebels through a legislative
peace commission, known as Cocopa, that has mediated in the conflict.
Marcos, who has become an international symbol for the plight of Mexico's
downtrodden Indians since a 1994 uprising in their name, told a news
conference: "The proposal is humiliating and contemptible. It relegates a historic
demand to the level of a summoning of a second-rate functionary."
"We will not accept a shaming dialogue with the legislative power, limited
corner and with a reduced number of legislators," Marcos said at a news
conference at which he was the only rebel present.
The 24 rebel commanders emerged from their stronghold in impoverished
Chiapas state in southern Mexico last month for the first time since their briefly
violent uprising seven years ago. On Sunday they completed a 15-day trek
across the country with a huge rally in Mexico City's main plaza, the Zocalo.
The Zapatistas say they will renew long-stalled peace negotiations with
government once the law is passed, and once troops are withdrawn from
Chiapas and rebel prisoners are released.
Mexican President Vicente Fox has made steps on all three conditions, setting
free some prisoners, sending the Indian law to Congress and shutting down
some military bases.
Members of the congressional Chiapas Peace Commission (Cocopa) met with
the EZLN leaders on Monday night, and then again with a Zapatista intermediary
on Tuesday, working on a date and time that the rebels could meet with
Rebels want to address Congress
Marcos said the rebel leaders insisted on meeting the full Congress rather
just a handful of lawmakers and wanted to be able to address the two houses
from the podium.
"We know that within the Congress there is a fear that if the EZLN is
allowed onto the podium it will speak against Congress or call for insurrection
or some such absurd thing," the masked chief said. "...There's no article (in the
law) that prohibits the use of the podium," he added.
Mexican Congress is made up of 500 deputies and 128 senators. The former
ruling Party of Institutional Revolution(PRI) has a majority in the Chamber of
Deputies with 211 lawmakers, followed by Fox's conservative National Action
Party (PAN), with 206.
In the Senate, the PRI also has a majority with 60 senators, while the
46. No party has an overall majority in either house.
While Fox has extended an olive branch, members of Congress are not rushing
to sit down with the Zapatistas, partly out of concern that the Indian rights law
would grant controversial political autonomy to Indian communities.
Copyright 2001 Reuters.