SAN RAFAEL, Mexico — Masked rebel leader Subcommander Marcos emerged from the jungle for the first time in four years Saturday to castigate Mexico's presidential candidates as "shameless scoundrels" and said he would back none in next year's election.
The Zapatista rebel leader's appearance at a meeting of activists in southern Mexico's Chiapas state seemed to be aimed at reclaiming a political role for the rebels before the election next July.
"They'll pay for everything they have done to us. They are a bunch of shameless scoundrels," Marcos said from behind the black ski mask he has worn in public since the Zapatistas first burst from the jungle in 1994.
"The decomposition of the political class is so great that we can do nothing," said Marcos, smoking his trademark pipe.
He reserved special ire for presidential front-runner Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, a member of the center-left Democratic Revolution Party, calling him a false leftist. "They say, 'Maybe Lopez Obrador doesn't steal.' But his team has shown its ability and appetite to do so," Marcos said.
In a video widely broadcast last year, one of Lopez Obrador's closest advisors was secretly filmed accepting money and stuffing a briefcase full of cash.
Marcos has said the rebels will embark on a cross-country tour aimed at uniting workers, students and activists around a leftist agenda.
The Zapatistas shocked the world when they declared war on the Mexican government and attacked police and army positions on New Year's Day in 1994, demanding rights for indigenous tribes.
About 150 people died as the rebels seized towns and clashed with security forces in the first few days, but there has been little fighting since then and the Zapatistas have turned increasingly to civic action.
In 2001, they crisscrossed Mexico in a two-week tour to drum up support for an Indian rights bill. They were received like rock stars, were allowed to address Congress and drew about 100,000 supporters to Mexico City's main square.
Marcos' identity has never been confirmed, but he is widely believed to be a non-Indian Mexican academic and political activist.