Letter: Oppressed Mexicans fight for democratic rights

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The Independent Online
Sir: If we Mexicans want to proclaim ourselves before the external world as the 'Mexican economic miracle' that wins its entry to the First World, thanks to the North America Free Trade Agreement, we must not forget the existence of at least two nations within Mexico: one for the very few for whom the economic miracle is already a reality, and the other, formed by far more individuals, for those who live in misery.

It was this latter nation that, on 1 January, decided to scream out its desperation.

The insurgent movement in Chiapas arose at an unexpected moment; however, the main reasons for rebellion have existed for centuries: poverty, absence of democracy and racial discrimination. The alliance of the political and economic powers for the unlimited enrichment of a few has been the cause of these problems.

Official versions deny that it is only indigenous and peasant people who have risen up in arms, putting in doubt the validity of the Zapatista army, blaming Central American agitators and the Catholic Church. However, that does not justify the indiscriminate bombing of the Chiapas population and jungle, which have only brought up further violent acts in several parts of the country, including the capital.

A civilised end to the conflict can only be achieved through frank dialogue and negotiation, with absolute respect for human rights. The marginalisation and poverty of the Chiapas people, as well as that of other indigenous groups in southern Mexico, cannot continue to be ignored and repressed.

Moreover, it is not possible to face economic problems without taking democracy into account, as events in the former Soviet Union have illustrated. Because of this, it is essential that the next elections are carried out cleanly. For more than 60 years, the ruling party (PRI) has been re-elected time after time by means of dubious procedures, at all levels, both in localised communities and in presidential elections.

Only when the oppressed population has full confidence that its will shall be respected, will it not find itself forced to use violent means to demand a solution to its most basic needs: food, hygiene and education.

Yours faithfully,

REBECA PEREZ

SANDRA NAVARRETE

FERNANDO BELLO

London, NW6

13 January

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