Zapatista Rebellion in Mexico 1994

(Chiapas Rebellion)

[ 1994 ]

On January 1, 1994, an Indian peasant rebellion erupted in Mexico's southernmost state of Chiapas, on the Guatemalan border. Armed rebels, calling themselves the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN), after Emiliano Zapata (1880-1919), a peasant hero in the Mexican Revolt of 1914-15, had longtime social and eoncomic grievances against wealthy cattle ranchers and coffee growers, who were supported by police and government officials. The rebellion also coincided with the enactment of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between Mexico, Canada, and the United States, which the poor Maya-descended Indians saw as a boon to the rich and ruination to them because it would sharply lower coffee and corn prices. Some 2,000 peasant guerrillas, supported by Roman Catholic leaders, occupied San Cristobal de las Casas and six other towns in the highlands of Chiapas. They seized a dozen police, ranchers, and others, and waged furious gun battles with government soldiers for 12 days before being driven into the mountains. A tentative accord was reached between the rebels and the government, which promised to redistribute illegal large landholdings to poor peasants, to begin a public works program, and to prohibit discrimination against the Indians.

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