Zapatista rebels seek political solution to resistance

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The Independent US

Mexico's government has applauded the Zapatista rebels' plan to engage more in political action and desist from armed struggle.

Mexico's government has applauded the Zapatista rebels' plan to engage more in political action and desist from armed struggle.

In a statement from their stronghold in the mountains of Chiapas state, the group said its members had overwhelmingly approved a "new step" in its resistance to Mexico's government.

It promised future communiqués would explain the new phase of the struggle by the leftist movement, which staged an armed revolt against the government in January 1994. Its demands for Indian rights and autonomy made the group an icon for anti-globalisation activists worldwide. "The EZLN will undertake a new national and international political initiative," Monday's statement said.

A spokesman for President Vicente Fox said he "celebrates" the rebel statement because a rebel move toward politics was good for the nation.

"This important decision salutes politics as the principal and most appropriate way to resolve the problems of the Zapatista communities and opens the possibility for dialogue as an instrument to reach agreements," the spokesman, Ruben Aguilar, said.

He said the group's history of armed rebellion would not present any legal hurdles to political activity or even a political party. The government, he said, was open for the rebel group to "incorporate into the country's political system, if that is their decision".

The rebels have been locked in an uneasy truce with the government since the 1994 uprising and have moved towards political rather than military confrontation. Although they initially intended to create a socialist government in Mexico, their focus shifted shortly after the uprising to Indian rights and political autonomy.

Mr Aguilar said a regiment of 400 government troops was transferred on Monday to a base near San Cristobal de las Casas that was once attacked by the Zapatistas. But he said it was a routine movement, hadnothing to do with the Zapatistas and did not cross territory they hold.

The statement, from the rebel leader Marcos, said 98 per cent of those participating in an internal Zapatista plebiscite supported taking the movement in a new direction.

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