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The BBC's Peter Greste reports
"The message seems to have made it to the top"
 real 56k

Tony van Poorten, Chairman, Mexico's Support group
"This is a vast movement that is sweeping Mexico"
 real 28k

The BBC's Peter Greste
"It was by any standards a historic moment"
 real 28k

Sunday, 11 March, 2001, 23:45 GMT
Rebels ride into Mexico City
People with banner
Thousands greeted the rebels into the heart of Mexico City
Mexico's Zapatista guerrillas have arrived in triumph in the heart of the capital, where a crowd of more than 100,000 welcomed them to the main square, the Zocalo.

In a speech packed with poetry, Zapatista leader Subcomandante Marcos called on the government to recognise the country's indigenous population, and to dress itself in the colours of the earth, not money.

Subcomandante Marcos
Subcomandante Marcos: The hour of the Indian people has come
The procession into Mexico City marked the climax of a peaceful two-week trek to raise support for their demands for greater Indian rights.

Crowds lined the streets chanting "Marcos, Marcos" and showered the rebels riding on a flat-bed truck with flowers and confetti.

Mexican President Vicente Fox has welcomed the Zapatistas, saying their arrival was the start of a dialogue that would lead to peace.

We cry out: democracy, justice, liberty

Subcomandante Marcos
To cheers from the crowd of "You are not alone", Subcomandante Marcos called on the president to listen their appeal for recognition of Indian rights and culture.

"The hour of the Indian has come," he said.

"We are here as rebels who cry out: democracy, justice, liberty."

Click here for a map of the Zapatista route across Mexico

They are the first rebel group to openly ride into the capital since revolutionary leaders Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata, the group's namesake, did it in 1914.

Mexico City's main square, the Zocalo
Over 100,000 people packed the central Zocalo square
Subcomandante Marcos, has warned he will remain in the capital until the constitution is changed to recognise the rights of the indigenous population.

The rebels are due to meet a congressional peace commission on Monday.

Our correspondent in Mexico City, Peter Greste says while the congress is divided and hostile to the rebels, the president backs their cause and the government will find it hard to ignore the public display of support.

The rebel tour has passed through 12 Mexican states since 24 February.

Rebel demands

The Zapatistas launched their uprising in the southern state of Chiapas seven years ago.

They want the government to withdraw some troops from Chiapas, to release prisoners and to amend the constitution to guarantee the rights of indigenous people.

President Vicente Fox
President Fox promises dialogue
President Fox, who marked 100 days in power on Saturday, has sent an indigenous rights bill to the Mexican Congress, freed dozens of prisoners and closed several military bases. But the Zapatistas have condemned the moves as nothing more than publicity stunts.

President Fox has also offered to meet Subcomandante Marcos at his presidential palace but the rebels have not yet responded to the invitation.

He said the fact that the march had taken place at all was proof that Mexican politics had been transformed since his electoral defeat of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) in December last year.

Correspondents say previous talks have stumbled on the government's claim that the rebels' demands could lead to political instability in Mexico.

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See also:

11 Mar 01 | Americas
The Zapatista tour in pictures
10 Mar 01 | Media reports
Press alarm at Zapatista arrival
09 Mar 01 | Americas
Fox's flying start in Mexico
01 Dec 00 | Americas
Profile: Vicente Fox
02 Jul 00 | Americas
End of era for all-powerful party
01 Dec 00 | Americas
Vicente Fox: The road ahead
03 Dec 00 | Americas
Mexico's peasant revolt
03 Dec 00 | Americas
Mexico rebels to talk peace
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