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Zapatistas Call Ruling Party Victory a ‘Lie’ and Urge Peaceful Resistance : Mexico: In first statement since vote, rebels ask for massive rallies. Result of governor’s race in volatile Chiapas state still disputed.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Mayan rebels whose revolt earlier this year plunged Mexico into unprecedented crisis on Friday blasted national elections and called for civil disobedience to “repudiate the fraud.”

In its first statement since Sunday’s vote, the Zapatista National Liberation Army said the ruling party’s large margin of victory is a “lie” that “only the gringos will swallow.”

The much-anticipated statement, signed by Subcommander Marcos, came as tensions in the southern state of Chiapas threaten to explode over what opposition forces claim was a rigged election that cheated their candidate out of the state governorship.

“The tactic (of the government) is to repeat the great lie until it becomes truth,” Marcos said of the election results that give sweeping wins to the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). “They are going to be mistaken once again, and it will all come tumbling down on top of them as it did in January.”

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On New Year’s Day, the Zapatista army launched a surprise rebellion that stunned Mexico and left 145 people dead in 12 days of fighting with the Mexican army until the federal government ordered a cease-fire. The Zapatistas demanded democracy and human rights for the hundreds of thousands of poor Indians who populate southern Mexico.

Sunday’s elections were seen here as a test of Mexico’s commitment to democratic change. But numerous irregularities in the way the voting was conducted--from alleged bribery and intimidation to the spoiling of ballots--have left many in Chiapas angry and awaiting a signal from the Zapatistas.

In two communiques released late Thursday and published Friday, the Zapatista army called on Chiapans to “defend their will” and to turn out for massive, peaceful demonstrations against the PRI. Rallies are to begin today here, as well as in Mexico City.

The opposition’s bitter disappointment and frustration over the elections threaten to reignite the Chiapas conflict. Although most analysts do not believe that the Zapatistas have many military options at their disposal, the situation remains unsettled and volatile.

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The elections seem to have left Chiapas as divided and polarized as ever. Opposition forces, who share Zapatista demands, claim that the authentic election results, which they monitored, give a narrow win to Amado Avendano, their gubernatorial candidate.

Avendano, publisher of a tiny local newspaper who survived a suspicious car wreck at the height of the campaign, claimed this week that he is the rightful governor-elect. In his first news conference since the election, he told reporters Thursday night that he will fight the official results “to the ultimate consequences.”

Meanwhile, in the Chiapas state capital of Tuxtla Gutierrez, PRI candidate Eduardo Robledo made the same claim and began going about the business of setting up his new government.

During the campaign, Robledo softened his rhetoric and assured voters he had “learned the lessons” of the Zapatista revolt. But for political victory, he had to rely on the most conservative of the region’s traditional power groups, such as ranchers and old-style PRI militants, whom Zapatistas see as the root of Chiapas’ problems.

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On Friday, columnist Luis Hernandez Navarro described the situation in Chiapas as two locomotives speeding toward a collision. “Holding elections for governor served more as an element of political decomposition than institutional stabilization,” he said. “The impending wreck of the two trains in Chiapas could have been avoided and it wasn’t. . . . The war is there, latent. The wreck of the two trains will create the conditions for it to germinate.”

The official tally gives Robledo 50.4% of the vote, with 34.9% going to Avendano, who ran on the leftist Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) ticket.

The Zapatistas said they intercepted radio communications between state election officials that proved Avendano won the race by a 2-to-1 margin. No proof of the claim was offered.

Marcos also claimed that ballot boxes were stuffed, Indians were pressured to vote for the ruling party--sometimes by employers--and votes for Avendano were intentionally voided by PRI poll workers.

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An independent watchdog group, the Civic Alliance, denounced more than 300 irregularities in Chiapas, including vote buying, pressure and intimidation, names missing from registration lists and unauthorized people allowed to linger at voting booths. The Civic Alliance said its own monitoring of a small sample of votes gave a narrow victory to Avendano.

“Personally, I believe there was fraud--a more refined fraud--but fraud,” said Juan Jose Borrego, the Alliance’s state coordinator.


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