Bishop Steps Back From Mediating Chiapas Conflict

Direct Talks Planned Between Government and Rebels

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SAN CRISTÓBAL DE LAS CASAS, Mexico, JAN. 24, 2001 (Zenit.org)
.- Bishop Felipe Arizmendi of San Cristóbal de las Casas has rejected a potential role as mediator between the Mexican government and the Zapatista guerrillas, saying it is beyond his capabilities.

Bishop Arizmendi, who succeeded Bishop Samuel Ruiz, former president of the National Mediation Commission, said, “There is a Psalm in the Bible, which says that we must not be ambitious for great things that surpass our capacities, and I don´t think I have sufficient capacity for a service of this nature — in the first place, because I have a lot to do in the communities.”

Moreover, the bishop of the troubled state of Chiapas said that the manner of the dialogue and mediation must be modified and adapted to new situations. The fact that a delegation of leaders of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) is going to Mexico City and requesting an audience with Congress “is another form of dialogue; it is a more direct way” of handling the situation, he said.

Bishop Arizmendi believes that the steps being taken are correct, because they enable the rebels to express their demands and needs, to be analyzed by Congress, whose competence it is to make the necessary changes. The bishop also pointed out that the EZLN is calling for a change in the social and political system throughout the country, an initiative that must be regulated by Congress.

Lieutenant Commander “Marcos,” the EZLN´s leader, announced that he would head a delegation of Indian commanders to Mexico City, which will leave San Cristóbal on Feb. 25 and arrive in the capital March 6.

The conflict in the southern state of Chiapas broke out in January 1994 when EZLN militants rose in arms in protest against the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between the United States, Mexico and Canada.

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ZENIT Staff

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