Marcos poll poser

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MEXICO CITY - Will Mexico's most famous masked man remove his black balaclava tomorrow and reveal his identity? 'Subcomandante Marcos', spokesman for the Zapatista guerrillas in the south-eastern state of Chiapas, could show up to vote for a new Mexican president, deputies, senators and a Chiapas governor, writes Phil Davison. But will he?

Under a compromise agreed between the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN), the government 'peace commissioner', Jorge Madrazo, and a mediator, Bishop Samuel Ruiz, Marcos is temporarily pulling his men out of rebel territory today and withdrawing to the jungle. The army will not move into the rebel zone.

No one knows whether the charismatic Marcos is from Chiapas and a registered voter there. His accent suggests he could be from the south. He does not appear to have Indian blood. His honey-coloured eyes are the best-known in Mexico, having appeared on most magazine covers.

If he votes he will have to give his name away. With a local representative of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) - his arch enemy - at every polling station, his identity would not be a secret for long. Many Mexicans believe the government knows who he is. In an overwhelmingly Indian area, he would have stood out like a sore thumb.

Closer than ever, page 11

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