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Monday, 2 April, 2001, 21:18 GMT 22:18 UK
Press says long road ahead for Zapatistas
Mexican Indians in Chiapas
The future of Mexican Indians is at stake
Mexican Indians face a long haul in their fight for civil, political and economic rights, with numerous problems to be overcome, leading newspapers concluded as the Zapatista rebel leaders returned to their Chiapas stronghold.

The Zapatistas, led by their masked and charismatic leader Subcomandante Marcos, spent 18 days in Mexico City, where they received a tumultuous welcome after a two-week tour to publicize their cause.

They promised to stay in Mexico City until Indian rights were enshrined in law, but departed prematurely, according to the daily Excelsior.

"Suddenly, without warning, the Zapatista leadership abandoned its Mexico City base to return to Chiapas," the centre-right paper reported, describing the action as "untimely".


The Zapatista cause is indeed the Indian cause

Reforma
It described the appearance of a Zapatista delegation before Congress to argue the Indian case as "an historic day" but noted that the Indian rights law had yet to be passed.

Victory

Another major daily, Reforma, said the Zapatistas had achieved "a victory in an episode in which no side ended up losing.

"However, the end of the road is not yet in sight. It is only the resumption of a process interrupted five years ago at heavy human cost."

Some political sectors had questioned whether the Zapatistas could claim to represent all Mexican Indians, Reforma said. "They showed, without doubt, that the Zapatista cause is indeed the Indian cause."


The Indians asked Congress to give back their lands. This would mean taking away the land of both mestizos, and foreigners

El Universal
El Universal worried that the meeting between the Zapatista leaders and the MPs "left more questions than answers".

It said some people feared that "the autonomy of the Indian people's will lead to the Balkanization of the country".

El Universal said there were also fears that the Indian law could end up preserving practices anachronistic in a modern liberal society, such as the subordination of women to men.

Another problem was that "the Indians asked Congress to give back their lands. This would mean taking away the land of both mixed race peoples, mestizos, and foreigners".

Sceptics

The left-wing daily La Jornada hailed the Zapatistas for "profoundly changing the Mexican political panorama" but warned that they would need to prevail over the neoliberal form of capitalism.

"We are renewing the path towards political negotiation. But there is a long road ahead, of dialogue and a willingness to change," La Jornada said.

"Although the Zapatistas have achieved an extraordinary result, it is obvious that the Indians alone cannot change the country nor impose a democratic project.

"It is necessary to convince the great majority of sceptics that the alternative plan and popular project will cost less than the continuous and aggravated crises offered by neoliberal governments."

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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02 Apr 01 | Americas
Zapatistas return to Chiapas
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