Zedillo Faces Showdown Over Chiapas Governorship : Mexico: Rebels vow a parallel government if ruling party candidate is inaugurated after disputed election.


President Ernesto Zedillo is headed for the first showdown of his new government this week, with eleventh-hour negotiations over Chiapas ending in a tentative agreement likely to leave Mexico’s embattled southernmost state with two governors and parallel governments.

Armed rebels warned that the scheduled ruling-party gubernatorial inauguration in Chiapas on Thursday could trigger a blood bath. In a move to ease tensions, Gov.-elect Eduardo Robledo Rincon offered to take a six-year leave of absence from the party to prove he wants to “govern for all the people of Chiapas.”

After two days of weekend talks with new Interior Secretary Esteban Moctezuma Barragan in Mexico City, the two rivals for power in the impoverished state vowed to avoid a violent confrontation when Robledo officially takes office.


Describing the meetings as “encouraging,” Moctezuma said Robledo and his rival, Chiapas opposition leader Amado Avendano, agreed to a six-point accord that should guarantee a peaceful transition of power on inauguration day.

But Avendano, who claims to be the real winner of the Aug. 21 election, announced as he returned to the state that despite his promise to respect Robledo’s inauguration, he will create a “parallel government” this week. He also said his supporters will go ahead with plans for massive protests Wednesday and Thursday, which Robledo agreed to tolerate. Avendano’s opposition Democratic Revolutionary Party insists that Robledo and the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party stole the election by fraud.

Asked about the implications of two governments in a state many analysts say is on the brink of another insurrection, Avendano told reporters, “Use your imagination.”

The post-election conflict in the state, which was the scene of an armed peasant and Indian rebellion that left more than 145 people dead during the first 12 days of January, is seen as a key test of Zedillo’s promise to foster a new era of political pluralism, reform and government through dialogue.

It is also a test of his new government’s ability to keep order in the nation, where similar post-election conflicts are simmering in the states of Tabasco and Jalisco.

The rebel Zapatista National Liberation Army has threatened to abandon its jungle and mountain bases in Chiapas and launch a nationwide civil war if Robledo is sworn in Thursday.


“If he wishes to avoid a blood bath in these parts, it would be better that he resign this post, which he did not obtain by the will of the people,” rebel leader Subcommander Marcos declared in a communique issued Monday.

The threat came even as Zedillo’s government announced the accord allowing the governor’s inauguration to take place.

In a nationally televised speech Monday night, Zedillo did not mention Chiapas. Instead, he unveiled the first in a series of measures to reform the judiciary and create a new rule of law in a nation where official corruption is endemic in the police and the courts. He said he will propose the reforms to the nation’s Congress as constitutional amendments this week.

Zedillo, elected in August and inaugurated last week, plans to take his most dramatic and concrete step today toward pluralism and reform of Mexico’s 65 years of continuous one-party national rule when he meets behind closed doors with 500 members of the national legislature.

The luncheon meeting marks the first time in Mexican history that a president will consult formally with the nation’s elected Congress on matters of national policy.

On the eve of the historic congressional session, the ruling PRI also tried to send strong signals that it would embark on a new era of reform.


Maria de los Angeles Moreno, who was elected the party’s first female president over the weekend, declared that the party must reform or crumble.

“Either the party changes in response to the aspirations of its members for renewal,” she said in her inauguration speech, “or it becomes paralyzed under its own weight, in danger of obsolescence.”

But Moreno did not specify what changes she plans, and at a time when the PRI is torn from within as never before between hard-liners and reformers, her pledges of renewal were met with less than enthusiasm from the opposition.