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Saturday, 15 June, 2002, 05:22 GMT 06:22 UK
Mexico warned over human rights
A Mexican military policeman in Chiapas
Indian rights reforms are a key issue in Mexico
An international human rights group has warned that Mexico faces more social unrest - and even repeats of last month's peasant massacre - if the authorities do not reform indigenous rights laws urgently.

A report by the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), which works to promote the application of the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights, highlights a series of deficiencies.

It calls on the Mexican Government to strengthen last year's controversial indigenous rights bill, in particular in the areas of land titles, economic rights and greater representation in legal and political circles for indigenous people.

The bill was only passed by Congress after key modifications diminished its effect.

Indian rights reforms are a key issue in peace efforts between Mexico's government and Zapatista rebels, who took up arms in the southern state of Chiapas in 1994 to demand improved conditions for the Indian majority there.

The FIDH warns the lack of access to land and extreme poverty among many of Mexico's 10 million indigenous could spark repeats.

Massacre

In May, 26 peasants were shot dead in the state of Oaxaca, in what officials say was a inter-communal land dispute.

The gunmen stopped the farmers' truck, ordered the driver out and then raked the back of the truck with gunfire.

The motive at the time was unclear. A similar massacre in the area four years ago was sparked by a land dispute.

See also:

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