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Zapatistas Begin Tour to Build Nationalist Movement

January 01, 2006|From Associated Press

LA GARRUCHA, Mexico — Pickup trucks and buses lined up Saturday on the dirt road leading out of this southern village as Zapatista rebels geared up for a six-month campaign tour of Mexico designed to provide an "alternative" to this year's presidential race.

The tour begins today, to coincide with the anniversary of a brief Zapatista uprising in the name of Indian rights on Jan. 1, 1994. This time, however, the Zapatistas are not expected to wield Kalashnikov rifles and declare war when they march into San Cristobal de las Casas, the main city in the southern state of Chiapas, about 75 miles southwest of this village.

Instead, Subcomandante Marcos, the Zapatistas' ski-masked leader, has promised to build a leftist nationalist movement that will "shake this country up from below" during a visit to Mexico's 31 states.

Marcos has promised that the movement won't be violent, saying he will no longer be a military "subcommander" but a civilian known as "Delegate Zero." But he said the Zapatistas won't run for elected office or join Mexico's mainstream political process, which he describes as corrupt and out of touch with the people.

In the village square Saturday, men in sombreros and baseball caps drank soda while listening to Mexican folk ballads on the local Zapatista Radio Insurgente as smiling children ran about and played.

"We want to show people that we really have something to offer," said 45-year-old Zapatista Pedro Bautista.

Zapatista sympathizer Bertha Navarro, 60, a Mexico City film producer who flew to San Cristobal on Friday, said she saw a Zapatista-inspired movement as a way for ordinary Mexicans to get involved in politics.

"There are a lot of people in Mexico like me who are fed up with the corrupt parties and are looking for a new way of doing politics," Navarro said.

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