Replay of Nicaragua in the works. Same general scenario.

Left-wing "have-nots" "liberation theology" Roman Catholics

vs Right-wing "haves" "traditionalist" Roman Catholics.

Both side blessed by their respective Roman Catholic clergy.

"Liberation theology", is the poor mans "just war" theory.

The "Ranchers and business leaders" of the following are are the local "establishment" Roman Catholics.

February 20, 1995

Associated Press.

SAN CRISTOBAL DE LAS CASAS, Mexico (AP) -- As opponents demand his removal, [Roman Catholic] Bishop Samuel Ruiz struggles to hold together an increasingly polarized Chiapas state and mediate a yearlong Indian uprising.

The job is getting tougher by the day. The 70-year-old diabetic monsignor faces protests by dissenters who want him to resign and pressure from Mexico City to quit his role as mediator. The toll shows on his ashen face and the unusual silences at ever-rarer public appearances.

At the brightly painted 16th-century Roman Catholic cathedral, parishioners stacked blankets and firewood in front of the diocese doors on Monday, after a riot Sunday left four people injured.

About 500 ranchers and businessmen from the San Cristobal Civic Front, accusing the bishop of supporting the Zapatista rebels, hurled eggs, rocks and sticks at the cathedral. Some demonstrators carried signs depicting Ruiz as a devil. In Las Margaritas, about 100 miles south, graffiti called for his death.

The demonstrators were gone Monday, but parishioners still maintained their vigil outside the diocese.

"We are here to support Don Samuel and protect him from the ranchers," said the 39-year-old Indian peasant, among some 100 people who spent the night outside the cathedral, huddled under blankets around a bonfire.

"The people with money are against the bishop because they are afraid of the effect on their economic interests," said Abelardo Sanchez Bermudez, 21, as he helped to form a human chain around the church. "He wakes up the poor people."

But many here feel otherwise.

"He's not behind the Zapatistas. He is the leader," charged Father Luis Beltran Mijangos, a priest who publicly disagrees with Ruiz's teaching of liberation theology.

"The [Roman Catholic] clergy, managed by Samuel Ruiz ..... totally changed the sense of the gospel. They hammered into the head of the indigenous the hatred of the Ladinos," said Mario Flores Quiroz, a leader of the Civic Front. Ladinos, of European-Indian descent, control most of the money and power in the country.

Ranchers blame Ruiz's liberation theology for the Jan. 1, 1994, uprising by the Zapatista National Liberation Army, which demanded political and social reform for impoverished Indians. At least 145 people died in 12 days of fighting and rebels and peasants have taken over 2,000 private properties.

Liberation theology interprets the Holy Scriptures in light of the poor. It has spurred rebel movements throughout Latin America in the last 20 years, although the Vatican now opposes it.

"Liberation theology is fomenting hatred and a struggle between classes," Beltran said. "It justifies armed struggle to recuperate property ....... This is not right. What guilt do I have for what my grandparents did?"

But Ruiz has stayed firm. "I've never heard of a theology of slavery," he once said. Ruiz has received letters and at least one call from the Vatican, asking him to tone down his involvement.

The Mexican Conference of Bishops last week came out in support of Ruiz's pastoral work but many bishops are uncomfortable with his social activism.

"The matter of the bishop has been very polemical. Evidently it affects the church and it compromises the image of the Church," Abelardo Alvarado Alcantara, president of the Bishops' Commission for Social Communication, said at a recent bishops conference.

Meanwhile, President Ernesto Zedillo is attempting to hand over Ruiz's National Mediation Commission to a multiparty government commission.

The commission was recognized in December by both the government and the Zapatistas. But now, rebel leaders who trusted Ruiz are on the run, as the army advances into their territory with an arrest warrant for rebel spokesman, Subcomandante Marcos.


February 19, 1995

Associated Press

Associated Press SAN CRISTOBAL DE LAS CASAS, Mexico (AP) -- Ranchers and business leaders attacked parishioners guarding the cathedral Sunday, accusing their bishop of fomenting the Indian rebellion in southern Mexico.

The clashes came as about 500 members of the San Cristobal Civic Front marched to support President Ernesto Zedillo's crackdown on Zapatista rebels. When the landowners reached the cathedral, several hundred Indians had formed a human chain to protect the bishop from their wrath.

About a dozen Civic Front members beat scores of the church's defenders. One passerby was also attacked -- a young Indian wearing the traditional pink embroidered tunic of a nearby village. Around the corner, five gunshots were fired into the air. It was not clear who fired the shots. Several dozen people were wounded, including 90-year-old Joaquina Pineda Gomez. Blood coursed down her neck after she was struck in the back of the head. About 40 members of the angry crowd were hurling sticks and rocks.

Civic Front members also hurled eggs at six elderly indigenous women saying the rosary in front of the diocese door.

The violence ended two hours after it began, when about 30 riot police armed with plastic shields, tear gas canisters, batons, and semi-automatic rifles positioned themselves between the two groups.

The statement, signed by vicar general Gonzalo Ituarte, expressed unqualified support for the bishop and called on parishioners "not to be carried away by provocations, by those who use force and violence."

San Cristobal's business leaders, along with ranchers in outlying towns, despise Bishop Samuel Ruiz and want him removed. They refer to Ruiz as the "Red Bishop," and accusing him of hiding guns inside the cathedral and advising the rebels.

The Zapatista National Liberation Army rose up Jan. 1, 1994 to demand better living conditions for Indian peasants.

Ruiz, who mediated peace talks between the government and rebels last year, has denied the accusations. He is a longtime proponent of liberation theology, which teaches the poor to stand up for their rights, and has defended the impoverished Indians of Chiapas state for more than three decades.

San Cristobal's leading human rights group, CONPAZ, called for an immediate investigation into Sunday's clash "with the goal of determining and punishing those responsible," and criticized police for not intervening sooner.

Civic Front members had declared earlier they would rally on Sunday, Mexico's national Army Day, to support the army's move into former rebel territory on Feb. 10.

In reply to the landowners, the [Roman Catholic] bishop's mostly Indian supporters formed a human chain around the 16th century cathedral. Holding white lilies and carnations, they recited the Lord's Prayer.

After the pro-army rally, demonstrators marched to the cathedral carrying banners of the Bishop portrayed as a red devil.

"You are ignorant," a woman in her mid-30's wearing high heels and orange nail polish screamed at the Indians guarding the church.

"May Marcos come your way," retorted one elderly peasant, referring to the charismatic, ski-masked rebel leader, Subcomandante Marcos, who is wanted by the Mexican army.

Ruiz, who has been the target of innumerable death threats, hurriedly left the cathedral about 9 a.m. with two bodyguards. They drove away to an unknown location.

As head of a church-backed commission that both sides have accepted as a mediator, Ruiz has called on the government to withdraw troops from recently retaken Indian villages as a condition for peace talks.

The Zapatistas, who say they are willing to talk peace, say the soldiers must first withdraw from the former rebel zone. Rebels also want the government to cancel arrest warrants for Marcos and other guerrilla leaders.

Zedillo has said he wants to resume peace talks but has no intention of pulling back the troops.

The army this weekend pushed deeper into former rebel-held territory. Reporters on Sunday saw some 20 armored vehicles, troop transports and Humvee jeeps rumble into Posada, about nine miles east of their former position in Patihuitz, east of this mountain community. Earlier Sunday, the president addressed soldiers celebrating national Army Day.

"Mexico will continue to be a sovereign, free, and united nation with the help of national army, with (civic) institutions, and with the backing of the people," Zedillo told soldiers.

In Mexico City on Saturday night, 100,000 protesters marched from the Angel of Independence monument to National Plaza, demanding that the army pull back troops from rebel territory.