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The BBC's Peter Greste
"The Zapatistas demand that they be allowed to argue their case directly"
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Wednesday, 14 March, 2001, 10:35 GMT
Zapatistas reject 'shaming' peace plan
Mexicans watch the welcome rally from a building
The rebels are standing firm over their demands
The commander of Mexico's Zapatista rebels has angrily rejected a proposal for opening peace talks with Congress as "ridiculous".

Subcomandante Marcos described the government negotiating committee's offer of a meeting with 20 congressional legislators as "a humiliating proposal".

The proposal relegates a historic demand to the level of the summoning of a second rate functionary

Subcomandante Marcos
The offer had been intended to get the ball rolling on talks over Zapatista demands for the constitutional recognition of indigenous rights.

Initial talks began virtually immediately after the rebels' arrival in the capital following their 15-day march through Mexico, but the latest setback suggests that the negotiating process will be slow.

Speaking at a news conference in Mexico city, Subcomandante Marcos said he wanted to talk "directly and personally" to the entire congress.

'A shaming dialogue'

"We will not accept a shaming dialogue with the legislative power, limited to a corner and with a reduced number of legislators," he said.

Subcomandante Marcos
Subcomandante Marcos called the plan 'contemptible'
The rebel leader pointed out that laws are made by the entire congress, and not just a handful of congressmen.

Marcos also denounced a comment by President Vicente Fox that he would consider closing more military bases near Zapatista communities if talks remain on track.

The rebel leader said this amounted to little more than an "ultimatum" on whether or not to continue "the war against us."

Rebels determined

The BBC's Peter Greste says some congress members object to having masked rebels, who have declared war on the state, present themselves in the heart of government.

Marcos walks past a mural depicting the rebel movement
The rebels are calling for more autonomy
Others say the Zapatistas' proposals threaten stability and unity within Mexico.

The rebels' arrival in Mexico City represents a turning point in their struggle for indigenous rights and they insist they will not leave until the legislation they want is in place.

The Zapatistas began the fight with their armed uprising in the impoverished southern state of Chiapas in 1994.

Accompanied by followers who have been with them through a 3,000 km road trip from Chiapas, the rebels have set up camp at the National Autonomous University.

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See also:

11 Mar 01 | Americas
The Zapatista tour in pictures
12 Mar 01 | Americas
Zapatista peace talks to start
10 Mar 01 | Media reports
Press alarm at Zapatista arrival
01 Dec 00 | Americas
Profile: Vicente Fox
01 Dec 00 | Americas
Vicente Fox: The road ahead
03 Dec 00 | Americas
Mexico's peasant revolt
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