Deporting foreign leftists won't solve Mexico's 4-year-old conflict over land rights in Chiapas. Only a political agreement with the Zapatista guerrillas can do that.
The Mexican government should go the extra mile to reach a fair settlement with peasants who have been mistreated for centuries. That is the issue, not the handful of foreign activists who went to the troubled state to stand with the peasants in their struggle for cultural and political rights.
Face it: Young activists, right or left, are not concerned about borders in pursuit of their causes and, yes, they can be a nuisance. But they are hardly capable of overthrowing local rule. That is why the decision of the Mexican government to toss out the foreigners is way out of proportion. Making the conflict look "foreign-inspired" is a move that could awaken dangerous xenophobic feelings.
The facts are these: Last weekend more than 800 soldiers and police officers raided a village in Chiapas where peasant leaders had set up what they called an autonomous local government. Twenty-one people were arrested, 12 of them foreigners, including three Americans. They were summarily deported for meddling in Mexico's political affairs. Article 33 of the Mexican constitution allows the government to expel any foreigner for political meddling. No one is disputing that the deportations were legal. But legality does not make the ousters morally right or politically astute. This is the time for negotiations.