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Zapatistas Leave Chiapas; Receive Rousing Welcome in Juchitan, Oaxaca

Accompanied by thousands of supporters, 24 Zapatista leaders, including subcommandante Marcos, arrived in southern Oaxaca yesterday on the first leg of their historic journey to Mexico City.
Oaxaca City--Accompanied by thousands of supporters, 24 Zapatista leaders, including subcommandante Marcos, arrived in southern Oaxaca yesterday on the first leg of their historic journey to Mexico City.

The caravan, or Zapatour as it is widely referred to in the Mexican press, left San Cristobal de Las Casas early Sunday morning and arrived in Juchitan, a bastion of leftist radicalism, later in the afternoon. A crowd of 15,000 people, which included Zapotecs, Mixtecs, Cuicatecs, Maztecs, Huaves, Mixes, Zoques and Chontals, waited for hours in the suffocating heat. Oaxaca, which borders Chiapas, is one of Mexico´s poorest states.

"They wanted us to disappear and they did not succeed," said Commandante Esther. "And here we are." (Noticias de Oaxaca, February 26, 2001)

Expressing support for local efforts to halt the Trans Isthmo Megaproject and the Puebla-Panama superhighway, the Zapatistas reitereated their demand that the government pass a new law guaranteeing the rights and the cultures of Mexico´s indigenous people.

"The only way which the Isthmus of Tehuantepec will not be sold is by promulgating the Law of Indigenous Rights and Cultures," Marcos said.

He later warned supporters of the dangers posed by Capitalism. "The false god of money has wanted us to give up our language," Marcos said, "because it knows that without it we would no longer be ourselves and they would then be able to make us give up everything." (Noticias de Oaxaca, February 26, 2001)

Mexico´s 11 million indigenous people speak 56 langauges. The Zapatistas have set three conditions--1.)the closure of seven key military bases 2.) the release of more than 80 Zapatista political prisoners and 3.) the passage of a law guaranteeing indigenous rights and cultures--for resuming suspended peace talks. The Zapatista caravan is scheduled to visit 12 states in 15 days before arriving in the center of Mexico City on March 11.
 
 

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