Revised Mexican Indian Rights Bill Approved

MEXICO CITY -After four hours of fiery debate, Mexico’s lower house of Congress on Saturday overwhelmingly approved a revised Indian rights bill that supporters called historic and opponents decried as an insult to the country’s 10 million Indians.

MEXICO CITY -After four hours of fiery debate, Mexico’s lower house of Congress on Saturday overwhelmingly approved a revised Indian rights bill that supporters called historic and opponents decried as an insult to the country’s 10 million Indians.

The bill – approved 386-60, with two abstentions – was revived last year by President Vicente Fox as part of his effort to make peace with the Zapatista rebels, who launched a rebellion seven years ago in impoverished Chiapas state. Last month, masked Zapatistas marched into Mexico City to lobby for the measure.

There was no immediate response from the rebels. Indian leaders said Friday that they would stage marches next week in favor of restoring the bill’s
original text. They say the bill approved Saturday weakens proposed guarantees for legal autonomy, territory and natural resources.

The initiative, a constitutional amendment, must be approved by both houses of Congress and a majority of state legislatures before it can become law.

“With this initiative, they have killed the aspirations of the indigenous communities to convert into reality the recognition of their rights and their cultures,” Democratic Revolution Party representative Hector Sanchez Lopez said Saturday, tying a black band around the congressional microphone in protest.

“We will fight like tigers” to pass a law that is more just, Sanchez said.

The Senate version “should be revised and rectified, because if it isn’t, the Indian reform will be born dead,” said Labor Party representative Felix Castellanos Hernandez.

The lower house debated the bill Saturday after rejecting a motion to suspend the vote – a request aimed at allowing various parties to meet and
reach a consensus on a bill that would meet Zapatista approval.

The first version of the bill was drafted to enact agreements reached in 1996 by rebel and government negotiators to end the rebellion.
Then-President Ernesto Zedillo balked at passing the measure, saying it could create legal conflicts and raised questions about Mexican sovereignty.

Author: Lisa J. Adams

News Service: AP

URL: http://www.eco.utexas.edu/faculty/Cleaver/chiapas95.html