Chiapas Bishop Urges That Indians Be Heard

Appeals to Mexico´s Governing Class

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SAN CRISTOBAL DE LAS CASAS, Mexico, FEB. 12, 2001 ( Bishop Felipe Arizmendi called on his countrymen to become «poor of heart, to put themselves in the place of Indians, and understand their needs and just claims.»

The bishop in the troubled state of Chiapas made his appeal during his Sunday homily. Chiapas is now involved in a peace process, after President Vicente Fox took office.

Instead of «racist attitudes,» he said, there must be «respect and attention toward the leaders of the National Liberation Army [EZLN], who are visiting several states of the country.»

The Zapatista march will end in the country´s Congress, with a solemn claim for the role and rights of Indians in Mexico.

«Let´s hope that our lawmakers will become humble and simple and listen to them, and even learn from them, because we cannot maintain that only we, mestizos, possess the truth on all their rights,» the bishop emphasized.

The march will begin in two weeks. On Friday, during a meeting with businessmen, Vicente Fox supported the Zapatistas´ march to Mexico City, and hoped that it would be followed by a peace agreement.

The president also expressed the desire that the EZLN command hold discussions with him in the city, after they speak with Congress. However, in a statement Sunday on Internet, Zapatista leader Subcomandante Marcos refused Fox´s offer to meet with him in Mexico City, saying that his claims have not been heard.

The march is a step toward the normalization of the Chiapas conflict, which began Jan. 1, 1994, when the Zapatistas rose in arms in protest against the implementation of the North American Free Trade Treaty between the United States, Mexico and Canada. They believed NAFTA would not benefit Chiapas.

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