Cardinal Rivera Is Ready to Receive Zapatistas

Church in Mexico Fostering Reconciliation in Chiapas

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MEXICO CITY, JAN. 16, 2001 (
Cardinal Norberto Rivera has expressed his willingness to receive members of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN), who will arrive here on a visit planned for March.

“If they come to greet me, I will be very pleased to greet them,” the archbishop primate of Mexico said, in statements published by El Universal newspaper.

The Zapatistas rose in arms in the southern state of Chiapas in 1994 in protest against the implementation of the Free Trade Treaty (NAFTA) between the United States, Mexico and Canada. With their visit to Mexico City, they hope to accelerate Congress´ approval of the draft law of the Commission for Concord and Peace (Cocopa).

Questioned about how the Zapatistas should arrive in the Federal District — they always appear hooded in the press — Cardinal Rivera said that Mexico has not established how people should dress. “I greet people as they come, combed or uncombed,” the cardinal said.

Regarding the conflict in Chiapas, the archbishop said that peace depends on both sides. He believes that not only the government must be asked to comply with the EZLN´s demands, but that the Zapatistas must also give evidence of their intention to reach a peace agreement.

Vicente Fox, the new Mexican president, has not requested the Church´s mediation, but her support and collaboration “so that we can support the Indians.”

“The only thing I want is to support them, I want to foster the human, educational and economic development of all the country´s Indians,” Fox said last Sunday. The president´s invitation was also extended to Bishop Emeritus Samuel Ruiz of San Cristóbal de las Casas.

In statements published today in Diario de Yucatan, Bishop Felipe Arizmendi Esquivel, the current bishop of San Cristóbal de las Casas, pointed out that all of the EZLN´s demands “are worthy of a response.” He suggested, however, “prudence and serenity” in the measures being taken in Chiapas.

The disarmament of the rebel group “must come after” peace is signed, Bishop Arizmendi stressed. “There is progressive movement in the renewal of the dialogue in Chiapas, but what took several years to build, cannot be dismantled in just a few days.”

Recently, Zapatista leader “Marcos” showed readiness to renew negotiations, indicating three prerequisites for the EZLN to return to dialogue: dismantling of seven military posts in the “conflict zone,” release of Zapatista prisoners, and congressional approval of the law on Indians´ rights.

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