Zedillo halts offensive against Zapatistas

Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo said yesterday he had called off his military offensive against Zapatista guerrillas in the southern state of Chiapas and was offering them an amnesty.

In what appeared to be part of a clever political gambit by Mr Zedillo, the controversial governor of Chiapas, Eduardo Robledo, also said he would resign. The Zapatistas, whom the Mexican army began hunting last week, had demanded the resignation of Mr Robledo, a longtime member of Mr Zedillo's ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), saying he won the governorship last August through massive fraud.

His resignation was a big concession to the rebels. But it also allowed Mr Zedillo to undercut the guerrillas by saying they should now lay down their arms. The government still wanted a political rather than military solution to the Chiapas conflict, he said in Mexico City.

There was little doubt Mr Zedillo's announcement and Mr Robledo's resignation were part of a plan to force the guerrillas to the negotiating table while restoring the President's image as a man of dialogue rather than military solutions. Mr Zedillo clearly feels the recapture of formerly rebel-held territory over the last five days - except for guerrilla retreats in the hills and jungle - has given him back the upper hand.

The President had come under heavy criticism over the last five days as the army sealed off the conflict zone and imposed a news blackout while the rebels spoke of bombardments, torture and rape of civilians.

Shortly after the governor's announcement in the Chiapas state capital, Tuxtla Gutierrez, Mr Zedillo said he had ordered the army to halt its offensive to allow a negotiated solution. He said he would offer the Zapatistas amnesty, if they give up their arms, under a new law he would send to the Mexican congress today. His statement did not specify whether amnesty would cover the masked guerrilla leader, Subcomandante Marcos, and other rebel chiefs.

Performing a complete about-turn on his efforts at dialogue, Mr Zedillo ordered their arrest last Thursday and sent the army and anti-narcotics agents to Chiapas to retake rebel-held territory on the edge of the Lacandon jungle.

There was no immediate response from Marcos or his Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN). Sources close to the Bishop of San Cristobal de las Casas, Samuel Ruiz, who has mediated in the conflict and identified with the guerrillas' cause though not its use of arms, reacted with caution. "It's a political manoeuvre but we'll have to see where it leads," a Church source said.

The "rebel governor" of Chiapas, Amado Avendano, who also backs the rebels' demands, and ran against Mr Robledo last August, described the proposed resignation as "a political manoeuvre but it's a first step. We've won a part of what we were asking for but if they replace him with another PRI member, everything will be the same. The army must return to their barracks as the next step."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
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

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is an excellent, large partially ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Primary Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Teacher Birmingham Jan 2015...

Ashdown Group: Lead Web Developer (ASP.NET, C#) - City of London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Lead Web Develo...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee