Chiapas Bishop Urges Renewed Talks Between Government and Zapatistas

Appeals to Commission to Address Indians´ Problems

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MEXICO CITY, MAY 31, 2002 ( Bishop Felipe Arizmendi Esquivel of San Cristobal de las Casas has urged a renewal of talks between the Mexican government and the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN).

Bishop Arizmendi on Thursday also asked members of the Commission of Concord and Pacification (COCOPA) to take measures to combat the problems confronting the region´s impoverished and marginalized Indian populations. The area is grappling high electricity rates at a time when its coffee is fetching low prices on the world market.

Zapatista guerrillas first staged a violent 12-day rebellion in the name of Indian rights and socialism in 1994. Bishop Arizmendi said that injustice is what gave rise to the original conflict, which he said now requires everyone´s effort to resolve it.

The bishop clarified that his meeting with COCOPA members did not imply that he was proposing himself as mediator in the conflict. «Rather, our service consists in mediating at the core of communities, so that people will learn to live with differences,» he said.

Xochitl Galvez Ruiz, head of the Office of Indian Affairs of the Mexican presidency, said that it would be ideal to re-establish the dialogue between the federal government and the EZLN.

Following a meeting held with presidents of the Indian municipalities of the Altos and Canadas de Chiapas regions, Galvez Ruiz said: «I think where there is a will, there are ways of resolving differences.»

During the meeting, Galvez Ruiz heard the complaints of Indian mayors, the majority of whom are members of the formerly ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). The mayors said that the state and federal governments do not take them into consideration and that the Secretariat of the Indian Populations of Chiapas responds in a selective manner to the needs of certain groups.

Galvez Ruiz told the mayors that the resources are now available, but that they must recognize that decades-old problems cannot be solved in a year and a half.

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