Sir: With reference to the article about the rebel leader Marcos taunting the Mexican president (14 February), I find it amazing that as soon as the Mexican army makes any move against the Mayan peasants, a whole litany of charges of human rights abuses is brought against them.

During my three-week stay in Chiapas over Christmas, I spoke to a large number of Tzeltal Indians who told me about the abuses they had received from the Zapatistas. One had come from Maravilla Tenejapa, quite near to Tepeyac, and he told me that because he had refused to join the Zapatistas and stop vehicles to get money and to work their land communally, as Marcos had ordered, he was threatened so much that he had to leave his community. He left 10 cows, a coffee grove, 20 hectares of land, his home, and four horses. He had to borrow money in order to buy some more land away from the conflict area. Another man I spoke to from a different village told me that his mother-in-law was hung from the beams of her house by Zapatistas to scare both her and him into joining with them. Later he was not allowed to harvest his corn.

Marcos and his rebels have been built up as the oppressed, but they need to be recognised as equally oppressive and undemocratic as some of their opposition. Could we please dispel the myth of the romantic rebel leader and his angelic followers.

Yours sincerely,


Repton, Derbyshire

15 February