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Mexico Ratifies Indian Rights Law Amid States' Opposition

July 13, 2001|From Reuters

MEXICO CITY — Mexico ratified landmark constitutional reforms Thursday to strengthen Indian rights, but indigenous communities that had inspired the bill dismissed it as useless in saving the peace process in Chiapas state.

State legislatures in Michoacan and Nayarit ratified the set of amendments known as the indigenous rights law, bringing the number of states approving it to 17--more than the majority required among Mexico's 31 states to change the Constitution.

But ratification came over rejection by states with large Indian populations and opposition from indigenous leaders.

"This reform will be born dead," the governors and leading lawmakers in heavily indigenous Chiapas and Oaxaca states said in a letter published Thursday in the Milenio newspaper.

Only months ago, the reforms were seen as crucial to ending an impasse with the Zapatista rebels in Chiapas, who rose up in arms in 1994 to defend Indian rights.

But the rebel leadership and Indian supporters denounced the final version as a mockery of their demands and an obstacle to peace, arguing that it gutted the original proposal for greater self-determination by Indian communities.

Together, the nine states that rejected the bill are home to more than half of Mexico's nearly 10 million indigenous citizens. Five states have yet to vote on the bill.

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