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Zapatistas mark Mexico uprising's 20th anniversary

AFP, Wednesday 1 Jan 2014
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Thousands of people gathered in a southern Mexico village on Wednesday to mark the 20th anniversary of the Zapatista rebellion's New Year's Day uprising.

"It is time to strengthen and globalize the resistence and rebellion," Comandante Hortensia told the crowd at a midnight ceremony in Oventic, one of the five village bastions of the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) that celebrated with song and dance.

Led by the masked subcomandante Marcos, the EZLN emerged in the mountains of Chiapas state on January 1, 1994, sparking a 12-day conflict with the federal government that left dozens of people dead.

A peace pact was signed in 1996 but the Zapatistas' demand of autonomy for their indigenous communities was never met.

The EZLN has since retreated into their mountain villages where they formed their own autonomous communities, while Marcos has shunned the media.

Chiapas, meanwhile, remains Mexico's poorest state, with poverty affecting three-quarters of the population.

"Twenty years ago, we put all political parties in the trash bin," Hortensia said.

"Our struggle has a just cause and our weapons are resistence, rebellion, truth, justice and reason, which is on our side," she said.

"But Zapatistas must work and organize ourselves more. It's not just about resistence anymore, but organizing the resistence at all levels."

The rebel commander said the EZLN is striving to improve health care, education and government in their communities, which lacked these basic services 20 years ago.

Taking its name from 1910 revolution hero Emiliano Zapata, the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) appeared the same day that the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) came into force.

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