Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Zapatistas, Still Wary, Sign Peace Accord

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Zapatistas, Still Wary, Sign Peace Accord

Article excerpt

CUERNAVACA, Mexico -- There was little fanfare in Mexico as the Zapatista National Liberation Army, or EZLN, and the Mexican government signed their first peace accords after 25 months of conflict and negotiations.

The three-part agreement included a recognition by the federal government of indigenous rights and a pledge from government officials to propose a constitutional amendment strengthening the autonomy of Indian towns and villages.

Another provision, signed by the federal and state governments and the Zapatistas, included a plan to redraft municipal boundaries to accommodate existing indigenous settlements, giving Indians a stronger voice in state politics. A third document, signed by the EZLN and an array of government boards and directorates in Chiapas, dealt with the bureaucratic abuse of indigenous rights.

Zapatista leaders refused to allow the press to photograph or televise the signing of this first formal accord, which the rebels described as "minimal."

In a communique, Zapatista leaders explained why they would "maintain a military option."

"The government has no intention of ceasing its repression. It wants to obtain by force what it has been unable to obtain by reason. The government has offered to soften ... only if the EZLN withdraws its demands for national reform," rebel leaders wrote.

The Zapatistas said they would not renounce their national struggle and would not "become an organization that cares only about Chiapas or a part of Chiapas."

Zapatista leaders said 96 percent of their supporters polled favored signing a peace accord. …

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