Mon, Sep 19, 2005 - Page 7 News List

Mexican rebels to tour the nation

CAMPAIGN The Zapatista rebels are planning a six-month tour to inspire `another way of doing politics,' but haven't yet agreed on what that actually means


Mexico's Zapatista rebels on Saturday struggled amid shouts and catcalls to hammer out the details of the new movement that they pledged would "shake this country up," starting with a six-month nationwide tour by rebel leader Subcomandante Marcos.

Marcos said he will embark without the rest of the rebel leadership on a roughly six-month tour starting on Jan. 1 and timed to grab attention away from the country's presidential election in July.

The state-by-state tour aims to inspire what the rebels call "another way of doing politics." But no one on Saturday seemed exactly sure what the new movement -- dubbed "the other campaign" -- will really mean.

Marcos opened a gathering of about 1,000 rebel supporters with a harangue against electoral politics and his chief personal rival on the left, presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

"What we're going to do is shake this country up from below, pick it up and turn it on its head," Marcos told a cheering crowd of supporters.

The spokesman for the Zapatista National Liberation Army said he not only wants to visit each state, but also to set up branch offices of the rebel movement throughout the country.

Marcos, whom Mexican officials identified in 1995 as former university teacher Rafael Sebastian Guillen, has been at the public forefront of the Zapatista movement since rebels burst from the jungles of the southern Mexican state of Chiapas on Jan. 1, 1994, to occupy several cities in the name of Indian rights and socialism.

The rebels quickly settled into a tense ceasefire with the government. Since then their movement has been largely nonviolent.

On his upcoming tour, Marcos may face the challenge taking a largely rural and Indian movement and translating it to Mexico's sprawling cities.

Edgar Ahuatl, a young activist from Mexico City's roughest neighborhood, Tepito, said he's already invited Marcos to visit there and hopes to start a Zapatista-style autonomy movement in the 50-square-block area known for contraband and drugs.

One Mexican migrant living in the US suggested that the new movement be taken north.

"This movement should focus on organizing Mexicans living abroad," Arnoldo Borja said.

An anarchist proposed the movement be "anti-authority," while another man drew both howls of protest and cheers of support when he asked that a portrait of former Soviet leader Joseph Stalin be removed from the improvised wooden meeting hall.

"Don't create divisions," Marcos warned that speaker.

But Marcos saved his heaviest fire for Lopez Obrador, who leads in the polls for next year's election.

Asked what he had to say to Lopez Obrador, the rebel leader parodied the former Mayor's famous phrase "look at my finger" -- a wag of the index finger that means no. Only Marcos raised his middle finger in an obscene gesture aimed at Lopez Obrador.

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