Amnesty offered to Mexican rebels

January 17, 1994|By Dallas Morning News

MEXICO CITY -- President Carlos Salinas de Gortari tried yesterday to lure rebel fighters to the negotiating table with an amnesty offer for the guerrillas who seized towns and cities in Chiapas on New Year's Day.

There was no immediate response from the Zapatista National Liberation Army rebels, who have retreated into the mountains and jungles of Chiapas, Mexico's poorest state.

In a nationally televised speech, Mr. Salinas asked the Mexican Congress to immediately convene an extraordinary session to consider the amnesty legislation, which contained more generous terms than two previous pardon offers for some guerrillas.

Mr. Salinas, who on Wednesday ordered a unilateral cease-fire that has prevented more firefights, said the amnesty would cover the period from the moment the uprising started on Jan. 1 until 11 a.m. yesterday.

Although no rebel communiques have been received since Jan. 10, guerrillas interviewed by Mexican reporters at clandestine jungle locations said they had been ordered by rebel leaders not to violate the cease-fire.

The pause in the fighting has allowed independent and government-appointed human rights groups to visit towns and cities affected by the fighting. And at least one mass grave was discovered in the city of Ocosingo, which was held by the rebels until Jan. 2 when they were dislodged by the army.

Mexico's National Human Rights Commission has exhumed at least 11 corpses from the grave. Three victims have tentatively been identified by civilians and eight were presumed to be rebel fighters, but no formal report on the findings has yet been issued. The mass grave, and testimony from individuals, has prompted Canadian human rights officials to accuse Mexican soldiers of executing indigenous Mexicans in their search for the guerrillas.

On Wednesday, Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy II, D-Mass., plans to meet with Bishop Samuel Ruiz, who heads the San Cristobal de Las Casas diocese, and investigate charges that civilians have been mistreated. The U.S. Congress is scheduled to hold hearings on the allegations next month.

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