The Zapatistas took the floor of the Mexican Congress yesterday to defend a proposed constitutional amendmentguaranteeing new rights for the country’s 10 million Indians.
Rebel leaders said the session, broadcast live on two national television networks, formally marked the end of theZapatistas’ existence as an armed guerrilla movement and their emergence as an open political force. SubcommanderMarcos was conspicuously absent, and Commander Esther led the delegation. She explained that as the Zapatistas’chief military strategist, Marcos had no place in their peaceful presentation before Congress.
Commander Esther announced that the Zapatistas were prepared to open talks with President Vicente Fox, and praisedhim for complying with their demands for the withdrawal of troops from seven bases near rebel strongholds. But shealso said that two more demands must be met before formal negotiations can be resumed: all Zapatista prisoners mustbe freed, and Congress must pass the indigenous rights measures. The government had already agreed to the measuresduring negotiations in 1996, but then-President Ernesto Zedillo reneged on his promise to send the bill to Congress.
Today’s struggle for Indian rights may be no easier: all but a handful of the members of President Fox’s own partyboycotted yesterday’s session.
- Luis Hernandez Navarro, Editor of the literary pages at La Jornada.