Some in Mexico are questioning rebels' motives

January 06, 1994|By Newsday

SAN CRISTOBAL DE LAS CASAS, Mexico -- Despite a government media effort to project calm, there was widespread uneasiness in this city as soldiers patrolled the streets and blocked highways in and out of town.

"There is great fear among the people and great confusion about where the guerrillas are and where they come from," said Ramon Gonzalez, an anthropologist.

Pro-government Indian leaders appeared on television, denouncing the rebels and saying that President Carlos Salinas de Gortari's government was taking efforts to provide new resources for the impoverished Indians of Chiapas state, one of the country's poorest regions.

"These rebels have come to cause trouble in commerce and communications and transport, which are all being disrupted," said the mayor of Oxhuc, Emilio Gomez. He said that Indians had won gains in the area in recent years.

"I regret this is happening," said Jacinto Arias Reyes, president of the Mayan Writers Association. "As an Indian, I can say that there is good will on the part of the government at the highest level. There are other ways to deal with our problems."

But the Rev. Gonzalo Ituarte, the Roman Catholic vicar of the city of 100,000, said he fears the government is using "excessive force" in dealing with insurgents.

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