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September 04, 1996 - Image 14

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The Michigan Daily, 1996-09-04

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14- The Michigan Daily - Wednesday, September 4, 1996

Zapatistas capitalize on Mexico's economic pain

The Washington Post
HUATULCO, Mexico - Maria del Rocio lives
in a mud-and-stick but two miles from a beach-
front of multimillion-dollar resorts. Her three chil-
dren sleep on palm leaves scattered on the bare dirt
floor. Her husband earns $33 a week as a truck dri-
ver - when he can find work.
Here amid some of Mexico's most poverty-
stricken people, the government is creating its
poshest new mega-resort, including the largest
Club Med in the Western Hemisphere. And it was
here also, where the Mexico of Maria del Rocio
and that of the Club Med collide, that a new leftist
guerrilla group last week made its biggest strike yet
against the government.
Ten people were killed here, just over a mile
from the blue Pacific shore that attracts tourists
from around the world. In all, 15 people were
killed in coordinated attacks across four Mexican
states.
"People are sick of the corruption and sick of
the president saying things are getting better
when their lives are really getting worse," said
30-year-old Juan, who drives a taxi for tourists
visiting the Huatulco beach resorts. "If the gov-
ernment doesn't start answering to the people, it
will face a revolution. This is the reality of
Mexico."
To listen to the govern-
ment, Mexico is a nation it
leaping into the next century There
with modern industry, vaca-
tion resorts and an economy very dif
that is slowly recapturing
international interest after ieXicos
suffering its most severe cri- -b
sis in 60 years. And officials side4
have statistics to back up their
claims.
At the same time, to drive Me
the back roads of the nation's
poorest regions, such as this
Pacific Coast state of Oaxaca, is to see a Mexico
still mired in the last century, where rural
Indians and peasants survive on a handful of
beans and cornmeal each day and pay for
makeshift huts without electricity, running water
or sanitation.
It is in the context of this seeming paradox that
Mexico's new guerrilla movement sprang up,
reflecting impatience among many Mexicans for
their daily lives to catch up to the favorable eco-
nomic statistics.
Almost three years ago, the free-market and
privatization policies put in place by President
Carlos Salinas de Gortari had jolted the econo-
my into a boom performance, and the effects
were just beginning to be felt by Mexicans on
the bottom rung. Foreign investment had begun
to create jobs, such as the hotel construction
work in this resort 300 miles southeast of
Mexico City.
But the growth process here and across Mexico
was demolished by current President Ernesto
Zedillo's botched peso devaluation on Dec. 20,
1994 - 16 days after he succeeded Salinas. The

f
S
p
J
'X

devaluation, which made the country look inse-
cure and unstable, wrecked investor confidence,
leading to a flight of foreign capital that left the
country unable to pay its bills and on the brink of
default. The resulting inflation, unemployment
and contracting economy hit Mexico's poorest cit-
izens hard - the same ones who had been told
repeatedly to place their hopes in Salinas' market
reforms.
"There are two very different Mexicos living
side by side," said Mexico City economic and
political analyst Jonathan Heath. "In one is the top
15 percent who have the purchasing power; then
we have a massive, very-low-income, poverty-
stricken population, mostly concentrated in the
south."
It is this persistent rift that helped foment the
People's Revolutionary Army. Many political lead-
ers say they believe the group is more dangerous
than the mainly Indian Zapatista rebels who waged
a 12-day rebellion against the government in 1995
in the southern state of Chiapas - with the new-
comers having more money, better weapons and a
far wider reach.
"It's real and it's something to worry about,"
said Vicente Fox, governor of the state of
Guanajuato and widely considered a future
presidential candidate
for the center-rightist
National Action Party.
are twoW "It's a clear expression
of the frustration with
$rent the government," he
I said in an interview.
IVIn Zedillo "keeps talking
sides nPabout macroeconomics
and statistics showing
onathan Heath the economic problems
are over. That's not what
dco City analyst we're seeing out in the
street or what the peo-
ple feel in their pock-
ets."
That point was illustrated Sunday, when Zedillo
gave his second state of the nation address and
highlighted Mexico's numerous improvements this
year: Interest rates, unemployment and inflation
are down; economic growth, exports and foreign
currency reserves are up; and the peso is holding
stable against the dollar. At the same time, the
country paid back $9 billion of a $12.5 billion U.S.
emergency loan and spent, or set aside, $24 billion
to support the nation's banking system, which
remains fragile.
"We think that Mexico is on the road to recov-
ery and the U.S. is pleased and so are internation-
al corporations and the people at the top, but is this
reaching down to the middle class and improving
their lives, or are they mired in stagnation?" asked
Peter Lupsha, senior research associate at the
University of New Mexico's Latin America
Institute.
"The common people are feeling the pinch. The
macro policies are succeeding, but they aren't
making tortillas any cheaper or salaries any bet-
ter."

AP PHOTO
Mexican army soldiers prepare to search a vehicle at a check point on the road to Paso Real, Mexico, yesterday. The Mexican army has increased
Its presence following raids last week by rebels.

Rebels break off peace talks

A1

The Washington Post
MEXICO CITY - Zapatista rebels in the
southern state of Chiapas have broken off
peace talks with the Mexican government in a
move that appeared designed to increase pres-
sure on an administration grappling with the
emergence of a second guerrilla group.
The Zapatistas, who led a 12-day rebellion
in January 1994, said in a letter to the gov-
ernment Monday that they are halting the 16-
month-long peace negotiation because of
"arrogance" of the government and accused
it of using the new rebel uprising as an
excuse to crack down on Zapatista support-
ers.
The Zapatistas - who have walked out of
the slow-moving peace talks numerous times
- also seemed to be trying to take advan-
tage of the government's vulnerability in the
aftermath of synchronized attacks in four
states last week by the new guerrilla organi-
zation.
Although the Zapatistas and the new

group, the People's Revolutionary Army, or
EPR, are making similar demands for the
poor, the Zapatista leader known as
Subcomandante Marcos has criticized the
use of violence.
"We are different from the EPR, but we are
not against them," Marcos said in the letter to
President Ernesto Zedillo announcing with-
drawal from the peace process.
Members of the new group reportedly set
up a roadblock and distributed literature in
Chiapas last week during its coordinated
attacks.
While the Zapatistas launched a 12-day
rebellion against the government that took an
estimated 145 lives, the new unit's tactics
have been to ambush government targets
since they appeared two months ago. Political
leaders and analysts have said they belieye the
new organization is better financed and
armed than the Zapatistas were.
Predictions by many economic analysts
that the guerrilla attacks would provoke

greater political rather than economic fallout
were partially confirmed yesterday when the
Standard & Poor's financial rating service
raised Mexico's financial outlook from "neg-
ative" to "stable."
"The outlook revision reflects Mexido's
reduced vulnerability to potential political
and external shocks and the recovery o
macro-economic stability since last year,' the
service said.
The death toll from last week's guerrilla
violence has climbed to 17 people, including
two additional bodies that have been discov-
ered.
The government of the southern Pacific
coast state of Oaxaca said the corpse of a
sailor who disappeared during a rebel attack
on a naval barracks in the resort town of
Huatulco on Aug. 28 was dug up at an aban
doned guerrilla camp Sunday.
"His body showed clear signs of having
been tortured and hanged," the government
said Monday.

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