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Amendment Stalls Peace Plan For Chiapas State

Mon., Jan. 13, 1997

Zapatista rebels and the government hit an impasse Sunday on a plan to end a simmering rebellion in Chiapas state, disagreeing over a constitutional amendment granting Indians legal rights.

The move leaves in limbo the accord reached last February, designed to end the 3-year-old dispute in Mexico’s southernmost state. A truce has held since February 1995, but the two sides have reached little agreement during the past 21 months of negotiations.

The peace accord, which grants Mexico’s 11 million Indians limited autonomy, was signed by President Ernesto Zedillo’s hand-picked negotiators after five months of discussions.

It calls for constitutional changes to allow Indians to redraw county boundaries to create Indian majorities, elect leaders according to tradition and conduct traditional jurisprudence, among other rights.

Implementation of the Indian rights accord is considered crucial for continuing with other themes in the talks ranging from justice to agrarian reform.

Congress must approve the implementation plan. Zedillo rejected the first draft of the plan in December before it reached legislators, saying it granted Indians special rights and would divide the country.

His counterproposal outlines Indian rights within the context of existing local, state and federal law. The rebels rejected it on Saturday, calling it contradictory, vague and, at times, absurd. Subcomandante Marcos, the ski-masked rebel leader, said the proposal even reduces some rights Indian groups already have.


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