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Last Updated: Sunday, 1 January 2006, 16:36 GMT
Zapatistas start political tour
By Claire Marshall
BBC News, Mexico City

Marcos sets off on national tour
Marcos set off by motorcycle for the national tour
Mexico's Zapatista rebels are emerging once again from their jungle hiding place in the south of the country.

The Zapatistas are embarking on a six-month tour of Mexico's 31 states as an "alternative project" to the presidential elections.

Their enigmatic, pipe-smoking leader, Marcos, has dropped the title of subcomandante to become Delegate Zero.

Still wearing his ski mask, this time he wants to build a national leftist movement through peaceful means.

Zapatista rebels will head from the jungle village of Garrucha for San Cristobal and then march to the Yucatan Peninsula on the Caribbean coast.

Unlike their armed uprising on New Year's Day in 1994, this time the weapons will be left behind.

It's being called 'the other campaign', billed as an alternative to the presidential election race which is already well under way.

Disdain for mainstream

The Zapatista command has said that the movement is shunning mainstream politics as corrupt.

It has heavily criticised the current front-runner in the election race, the leftist mayor of Mexico City, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

The details of this new face of Zapatismo are unclear but a recent statement said a step forward is only possible if "we link with other sections of society".

The core principles therefore seem to be the same - more rights for Mexico's indigenous Indian minority and a fairer, less corrupt nation.

The question now is whether, 12 years after their fight started, they can now make a real impact across the nation.

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