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DATE=2/5/99 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT NUMBER=2-245156 TITLE=CHIAPAS CONFLICT (L-ONLY) BYLINE=GREG FLAKUS DATELINE=SAN CRISTOBAL DE LAS CASAS CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: FIVE YEARS AGO, THE ZAPATISTA NATIONAL LIBERATION ARMY (THE ZAPATISTAS) LAUNCHED AN ARMED UPRISING IN MEXICO'S SOUTHERN STATE OF CHIAPAS THAT RESULTED IN AT LEAST 150 DEATHS. GOVERNMENT EFFORTS TO NEGOTIATE A SETTLEMENT HAVE FAILED AND NO TALKS ARE CURRENTLY PLANNED. THE GUNS MAY BE SILENT FOR THE MOMENT, BUT, AS V-O-A'S GREG FLAKUS REPORTS FROM THE HIGHLAND CITY OF SAN CRISTOBAL DE LAS CASAS, THE SIMMERING CONFLICT IS NOW AN IMPORTANT PART OF EVERYDAY LIFE. TEXT: /// AMBIENT SOUND /// TEXT: THIS BEAUTIFUL OLD SPANISH-COLONIAL STYLE CITY IN THE HIGH PINE FORESTS IS THE PLACE WHERE SUBCOMMANDER MARCOS AND THE ZAPATISTA GUERRILLAS MADE THEIR FIRST APPEARANCE BACK IN JANUARY OF 1994. FOR A BRIEF TIME AFTER THE FIGHTING CAME TO AN END, REPORTERS MADE THEIR WAY INTO THE ZAPATISTA-CONTROLLED AREA TO MEET WITH THE MAN WHOSE FACE WAS COVERED BY A SKI MASK. BUT IN THE PAST YEAR OR SO, THE GUERRILLA COMMANDER HAS NOT BEEN SEEN MUCH BY OUTSIDERS AND HAS ISSUED FEW COMMUNIQUES. HE AND THE ZAPATISTA FIGHTERS ARE SOMEWHERE OUT IN THE FORESTS OF SOUTH-CENTRAL CHIAPAS, SURROUNDED BY THOUSANDS OF MEXICAN TROOPS. BUT, HERE IN SAN CRISTOBAL, MARCOS IS PRESENT IN OTHER WAYS. INDIAN WOMEN IN THEIR COLORFUL GARB HAWK LITTLE MARCOS DOLLS ON THE SIDEWALKS AND HIS PICTURE IS A COMMON SIGHT ON TEE-SHIRTS AND POSTCARDS. NOT FAR FROM THE CITY'S MAIN MARKET, VENDOR JOSE RAYO (HOH SAY' RIE' YOH), SELLS A VARIETY OF ZAPATISTA SOUVENIRS AS WELL AS BOOKLETS AND NEWSLETTERS ABOUT THE MOVEMENT. /// RAYO ACT (SPANISH) /// HE SAYS HE WORKS WITH CIVILIAN GROUPS WHO SUPPORT THE ZAPATISTAS BUT THAT HE IS NOT DIRECTLY CONNECTED WITH THE INSURGENTS. HE SAYS THEY DID NOT TAKE UP ARMS IN ORDER TO SELL THEIR MEMORABILIA. THE STRUGGLE, HE SAYS, IS A LEGITIMATE ONE BECAUSE THE MEXICAN GOVERNMENT HAS FAILED THE PEOPLE OF CHIAPAS, ESPECIALLY THE POOR INDIGENOUS PEOPLE. /// ACT (SPANISH) /// MR RAYO SAYS THE GOVERNMENT, WHICH HAS BEEN DOMINATED BY THE RULING INSTITUTIONAL REVOLUTIONARY PARTY, OR P-R-I, FOR 70 YEARS, HAS BLOCKED PROGRESS AND CONTINUES TO SUPPORT ARMED CIVILIAN GROUPS WHO REPRESS THOSE WHO TRY TO MAKE CHANGES. MOST PEOPLE HERE DO NOT SPEAK SO OPENLY ABOUT THEIR VIEWS ON THE CONFLICT. IN FACT, ALMOST THE ONLY PEOPLE BUYING THE ZAPATISTA TRINKETS AND TEE-SHIRTS ARE FOREIGN TOURISTS, MOSTLY FROM EUROPE, WHO FILL LOCAL HOTELS AND YOUTH HOSTELS AND DO MUCH TO SUPPORT THE LOCAL ECONOMY. SOME STORES HAVE PRICES LISTED IN FRENCH FRANCS AND GERMAN MARKS AS WELL AS IN MEXICAN PESOS. BUT, WHILE "REVOLUTIONARY TOURISM," AS SOME CALL IT, MAY PROVIDE SOME ECONOMIC GAIN, MOST DEVELOPMENT EXPERTS SAY IT WILL BE DIFFICULT TO MAKE REAL PROGRESS HERE AS LONG AS THE CONFLICT REMAINS UNRESOLVED. THERE ARE ALSO PEOPLE HERE WHO BLAME THE ZAPATISTAS FOR THE STALLED NEGOTIATIONS AND SEE THEM AS A DETRIMENT TO PROGRESS IN CHIAPAS. EVEN THOUGH NO SHOTS ARE BEING FIRED AT THE MOMENT, THE POTENTIAL FOR FURTHER FIGHTING REMAINS AND THE UNCERTAINTY MAKES IT DIFFICULT FOR ANYONE HERE TO PLAN FOR A BETTER FUTURE. (SIGNED) NEB/GF/GE 05-Feb-99 10:54 AM EST (1554 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .





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