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Saturday, 10 March, 2001, 16:35 GMT
Press alarm at Zapatista arrival
Mexico City's main square, the Zocalo
Marcos will address supporters in Mexico City's huge central square
Leading Mexican newspapers have expressed alarm at the imminent arrival in the capital of rebel leader Subcomandante Marcos and his band of Zapatistas for a rally in support of Indian rights.

El Heraldo warns that Mexico City faces weeks of uncertainty. "Zapatista commanders are threatening to stay for however long it takes to get the Cocopa law (guaranteeing Indian rights) passed, threatening weeks of unrest for a city as complex as this."

The longer their stay in the capital, "the greater the unnecessary risk to the country's tranquility", the daily said in an editorial.

Subcomandante Marcos on tour
The masked rebel leader greets supporters on the Zapatour
Subcomandante Marcos, it said, "fails to recognise the truth, stuck as he is at the summit of haughty arrogance. A clear majority of Mexicans reject violence as a means of bringing about social and political change".

El Heraldo complained that government efforts to guarantee the rebel leader's security on the so-called Zapatour were "extraordinary, almost raised to the level of national security".

It did however admit the possibility of an attack on him during his address to crowds in the giant central square, the Zocalo.


Writing in a similar vein in El Universal, Alfonso Navarro accused Mr Marcos of hiding behind the Indian cause while yearning for a Marxist revolution.

Many people think Marcos will simply refuse to sign any peace accord

Jose Antonio Crespo in El Universal
"The photo of Che Guevara, the omnipresent icon of the Zapatour, says it all," Mr Navarro argues. "One notes a certain exasperation in the Zapatista leader at the impossibility of installing a Marxist regime in the style of Fidel Castro in Cuba."

"He is wrong if he thinks he is deceiving the Mexican people into thinking the ideological impulse of his fight is Indian rights."

Another El Universal commentator, Jose Antonio Crespo, says a "significant and active minority" would give their "unconditional support" to Mr Marcos, although the majority of Mexicans were backing President Vicente Fox.

Frivolous propaganda which distorts the motives of the Zapatista march

Amalia Garcia Medina in El Universal
Amalia Garcia Medina, writing in the same newspaper, criticises the "frivolous propaganda which distorts the motives of the Zapatista march".

"Mexico cannot call itself democratic while it ignores the just demands of its original peoples."

Saint or sinner?

For Agustin Basave Benitez, writing in Reforma, Mr Marcos is an ambiguous figure.

Their message zigzags opportunistically between violent revolution and democracy

Agustin Basave Benitez in Reforma
"There is a heavy dose of authoritarianism and intolerance mixed with old socialist ideas and other contradictions."

"Their message zigzags opportunistically between violent revolution and democracy, indigenist causes and political liberalism."

However Mr Basave acknowledges that Mr Marcos' "intelligence, sense of humour and historical allegories have contributed to diminish the solemnity and narrowness of Mexican political life".

"The romance and literary vein of his discourse contains a germ of political redemption and mystical idealism of which, in my opinion, we are badly in need."

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

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See also:

03 Mar 01 | Americas
'Zapatour' gathers pace
02 Mar 01 | Americas
Zapatistas enter 'hostile' territory
25 Feb 01 | Americas
Zapatistas gamble on Mexico march
03 Dec 00 | Americas
Mexico's peasant revolt
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