Marcos taunts Zedillo from his hide-out

Phil Davison in San Cristobal de las Casas says the guerrilla leader is mounting a poetic propaganda war

As Zapatista guerrillas regrouped in the jungles of the southern state of Chiapas and their leader, "Subcomandante Marcos", taunted the government, the Mexican army joined battle yesterday with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

A general accused a Red Cross delegate, Katherine Herrmann of "instigating [Indian peasants] to rebellion" while the ICRC complained of being kept out of the conflict zone and expressed concern over the fate of thousands, possibly tens of thousands of refugees.

The chief ICRC delegate in Mexico, Claudio Baranzini, said that the accusations against Miss Herrmann were the result of a "misunderstanding".

He said that he feared for the lives of women, children and old men who fled into the jungle as the army moved into former guerrilla-held areas at the weekend.

Mr Baranzini was turned back at an army checkpoint at the town of Altamirano on Sunday as he attempted to check the situation of the refugees and reports that the army was carrying out "genocide", bombarding the jungle and "beating and raping" civilians.

He has suspended the Red Cross operation in the town of Guadalupe Tepeyac - a guerrilla stronghold until the army moved in last Friday - "because the army took over the local clinic and we can not therefore work in a climate of neutrality."

General Ramon Arrieta, commander of the paratroopers who took Guadalupe Tepeyac, told reporters flown to the area in an army-arranged trip that "this woman [Miss Herrmann] acted as though this whole place was her responsibility and the population should obey her. She was inciting them to rebellion so that they'd be afraid of us."

Mr Baranzini explained that Miss Herrmann had merely been trying to guarantee the safety of more than 200 old men, women and children who had gathered in the local clinic for Red Cross protection. He said she was now in San Cristobal de las Casas, that the Red Cross operation in Guadalupe Tepeyac had been suspended and that he had no idea as to the fate of the civilians.

General Arrieta said he had detained two Americans in the town posing as journalists. He named them as Robert Trenen and Ruben Cardoso. Asked whether detaining them might not complicate relations with the US, the general replied: "I take full responsibility. I believe they were inciting the population to disobedience and rebellion." The two Americans were later released and arrived in San Cristobal, saying they were in fact freelance journalists and dismissing the general's allegations.

Following President Ernesto Zedillo's decision last week to move against the guerrillas, the army appears to have taken over most of the towns and villages held by the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) for the past year. But the guerrillas, estimated at several thousand and possibly accompanied by thousands of civilian sympathisers, are believed to have moved north-east across the rivers Colorado and Jatate into the Blue Mountains, accessible only by horse or on foot.

Subcomandante Marcos yesterday produced his first statement since Mr Zedillo ordered the move against him. As always, it was highly literate, sometimes poetic and often ironic. "We are the Zapatistas, the little people, the always-forgotten ones, the millionaires in unfulfilled promises," he wrote.

He mocked Mr Zedillo's revelation of his alleged real name last week - 37-year-old former philosophy lecturer Rafael Sebastian Guillen - and photographs purportedly showing him for the first time without his trademark black balaclava. "I hear they've found another Marcos. Is he handsome?" asked the man voted last year the sexiest man in Mexico in a poll of women. "They're trying to make me look ugly. It's ruining my female correspondence."

Ending on a more serious note, he wrote: "I've got 300 bullets. Tell them they can send 299 soldiers to try to get me. Why only 299 when I've got 300 bullets? Well, the last one's for yours truly.

tGuadalajara (AP) - Jubilant opposition gubernatorial candidate Alberto Cardenas said he "won by a knockout" in dealing Mexico's ruling party its biggest election defeat in its 66-year history.

By their count, Mr Cardenas and his centre-right National Action Party took the Jalisco state house, about 90 of the state's 124 municipal governments and the majority in the state legislature.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Executive

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Retail Buyer / Ecommerce Buyer

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Working closely with the market...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - CAD Software Solutions Sales

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A reputable company, famed for ...

Ashdown Group: Client Accountant Team Manager - Reading

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group has been engaged by a highly resp...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

War with Isis

Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

A spring in your step?

Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
10 best compact cameras

A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

Paul Scholes column

Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?