Soldiers occupying jungle territory once held by Zapatista guerrillas killed a rebel in a fight that illustrates the risk of further violence in Chiapas.
New fighting between government and rebel forces has been feared since Feb. 10, when President Ernesto Zedillo sent troops into parts of the Lacandon jungle that have been controlled by the Zapatista rebels for more than a year.
The federal attorney general’s office said Gilberto Jimenez Hernandez was killed Monday in a shootout near the isolated community of La Grandeza, about 50 miles east of here.
No soldiers were wounded in the shootout, which occurred during a routine army patrol. Soldiers arrested three other armed men and turned them over to civil authorities.
The attorney general’s office also reported that unknown gunmen opened fire on soldiers in nearby Nuevo Momon late Sunday and early Monday. There were no reported casualties.
Human rights groups and a Catholic church-backed commission formed to mediate the dispute between the government and the Zapatista National Liberation Army have insisted the two sides be further separated to prevent violence.
Zedillo says he will not withdraw the thousands of army troops. To do so, he says, would be to “abdicate national sovereignty” to Zapatistas.
Arrest warrants had been issued for rebel leaders, including the wellknown Subcomandante Marcos, who remains at large.
The Zapatistas rose up Jan. 1, 1994, to demand basic rights and services for the impoverished Indian peasants of the southern state of Chiapas. Peace talks collapsed a year ago, and efforts to restart them have stalled.
The following fields overflowed: DATELINE = SAN CRISTOBAL DE LAS CASAS, MEXICO