Reputed sister of Mexican rebel leader joins new president’s team


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MEXICO CITY -- A politician identified in Mexican news reports as the sister of Subcomandante Marcos, the long-time public face of the major armed indigenous rebel group in southeastern Mexico, has been named to the transition team of President-elect Enrique Peña Nieto.

The footnote to Tuesday’s major political story in Mexico sparked a flurry of head-scratching over the often-stupefying nature of the webs of blood and politics in Mexican society.


How could ‘Marcos,’ the famous masked rebel, equally enigmatic and charismatic, be related to someone now in the inner circle of the man who will lead the once-authoritarian Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, back to power in Mexico?

Mercedes del Carmen Guillen Vicente, identified also by the first name Paloma, will serve as coordinator of the legislative agenda of the PRI transition team, Peña Nieto announced. She was present Tuesday during the transition announcement.

Until last week, Guillen served as a federal legislator in the lower Chamber of Deputies of Mexico’s Congress as a member of the PRI.

She is also identified in numerous reports as a sibling to Rafael Sebastian Guillen Vicente, the man Mexico’s government has long claimed is the face behind the ski mask and smoking pipe of Subcomandante Marcos. He is officially the public spokesman of the Zapatista National Liberation Army, or EZLN in Spanish.

Marcos has never admitted he is Rafael Guillen, but he hasn’t denied it either. By most accounts, he has been estranged from his family since he shed his identity and joined the Mayan rebels in the state of Chiapas in time for their unprecedented uprising on New Year’s Day 1994.

His sister, meanwhile, is described as media-shy and has also not publicly acknowledged the blood relationship to Subcomandante Marcos.


‘It is not confirmed,’ said Jorge Suarez, Paloma Guillen’s former secretary at the Chamber of Deputies, when reached by The Times on Tuesday. ‘I wouldn’t dare make that assertion.’

Subcomandante Marcos has been largely absent from public view in recent years. Differing rumors have swirled for months in Mexico over the state of his health. On Tuesday, the EZLN’s websites were noticeably off-line.

Laura Castellanos, a journalist who interviewed Marcos for her 2008 book ‘Corte de Caja,’ said the rebel leader made only a cheeky reference to Rafael Sebastian Guillen when she spoke with him face-to-face.

(The matter was further complicated on Tuesday when a major drug cartel figure with the same surname, Mario Cardenas Guillen, was captured by Mexico’s marines. ‘Guillen’ is a common last name in the state of Tamaulipas, where all three of these figures are from. There was no known relation.)

The fact is, journalist Castellanos added, many families in Mexico have seemingly contradictory ideological wings or factions. And similar ideological break-ups.

‘In that context, it’s understood,’ Castellanos said. ‘Go to any barrio on a Sunday for a family reunion, and it will be the argument at the table.’


Mexico’s next president names transition team

Mexico’s Subcomandante Marcos makes a rare appearance

Mexico’s president defends tenure in final state of union speech

-- Daniel Hernandez