October 25, 1996

pages 7-8

The bishop who heads Mexico's National Mediating Commission said the government is escalating the military conflict in the southern state of Chiapas.

Bishop Samuel Ruiz Garcia of San Cristobal de Las Casas in Chiapas said 60 percent of the Mexican army is currently based in that Mexican state. "In some places there are 17 soldiers for each resident," he said. "And the army has a new function: It's playing a political role and not just a military one. It's not an army that's there to simply patrol, but with all its sophisticated armament, including tanks, is intimidating the population."

Ruiz said the Mexican government had "no will to dialogue; there's been a decision to reduce to the minimum the things that can be conceded ...... that's why the talks are at a standstill."

The bishop made the comments Oct. 10 during an ecumenical gathering in Antigua attended by Protestant leaders and Catholic bishops from throughout Central America and Mexico.

Ruiz said the Mexican army "has discovered that the fundamental strength of the Zapatista National Liberation Army is not its arms, but rather its social base. So the army stays in Chiapas to cut off any relationship between the civilian population and the Zapatista army."

"Bishop Ruiz speaks at an ecumenical conference of religious leaders from Southern Mexico and Central America" - [caption under picture of Bishop Ruiz]