October 11, 1994

Associated Press

SAN CRISTOBAL DE LAS CASAS, Mexico (AP) -- Indian rebels are refusing further peace talks with the government, a blow to national leaders struggling with an assassination scandal and a sensitive transfer of power.

The Zapatista National Liberation Army accused the government of beefing up troops and weaponry in the southern state of Chiapas, where they are based in a remote jungle region.

Negotiations, stalled since March, will not resume while "there is no true will for dialogue," said a rebel statement issued Monday.

Roman Catholic Bishop Samuel Ruiz, a peace mediator, urged the Zapatistas avoid provoking the military and appealed for a moderate reaction by the authorities.

The office of President Carlos Salinas de Gortari said the government is ready to negotiate and called on the Zapatistas to return to the negotiating table.

The rebels, made up overwhelmingly of Maya Indians from southeast Chiapas, carried out an uprising against the government on Jan. 1. More than 145 people died before a Jan. 12 cease-fire.

Salinas is due to hand over power on Dec. 1 to President-elect Ernesto Zedillo, which will mean a major turnover in government posts.

The government is also struggling to solve the Sept. 23 assassination of the ruling party's deputy leader, Jose Francisco Ruiz Massieu. Prosecutors say the killing apparently was carried out by a disgruntled faction in the party.

The Zapatista statement complained the army was building up troops and weaponry in Chiapas and said officials had beaten, detained and tortured peasants who tried to seize farmland there.

It also accused security officials of helping to train paramilitary forces for local ranchers.

The Zapatistas have rejected government promises of large-scale aid for the area and greater respect for Indian rights, saying the offer stopped short of guaranteeing full democracy for Mexico.