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Mexico Congress Torn over Whether to Let Zapatistas Address Its Chambers in Favor of Indian Bill of Rights

HeadlineMar 16, 2001

Mexico’s Congress opened a new session yesterday, torn over whether to let mass Zapatista rebels address its chambers in favor of an Indian Bill of Rights. Earlier this week, Subcomandante Marcos had rejected a plan for a 20-strong commission of deputies and senators to meet Zapatista commanders in the upper house of Congress, calling it humiliating, undignified and ridiculous. He said that the rebels should be allowed to address both houses from the congressional podium. Marcos also accused congressional hard-liners of pressuring the peace commission in an attempt to sabotage negotiations, and Congressmember Alberto Anaya, whose small Labor Party is one of several supporting the bill, President Vicente Fox of doublespeak for promoting the bill publicly while failing to force his own party to support it. The bill would let Indian communities make laws and elect officials using traditional practices such as village meetings rather than balloting. It also demands radio stations in Indian languages, bilingual schools and proportional representation for Indians in legislatures. Meanwhile, President Fox has proposed to begin taxing food and many medicines, while lowering the corporate tax rate and slashing the personal income tax by 20%. Many have accused the former Coca-Cola executive of trying to tax the poor while giving the rich a break in the name of a struggling economy.

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