The government and rebels demanding more rights for Mexico's southern peasants tentatively agreed on new security arrangements that could get stalled peace negotiations under way Friday.
Talks were to begin here Thursday, but government negotiators did not show up, saying a gathering of some 1,000 peasants in the town's main square had created a safety problem.The new security arrangement - essentially an agreement to talk - was reached Thursday night in San Cristobal de las Casas, 20 miles southeast of here in Mexico's southernmost state, Chiapas.
Government negotiators said they would look over the new arrangement Friday morning. If they are satisfied, talks could start immediately, said Marco Antonio Bernal, head of the government team. Details of the arrangement were not released.
Chiapas has long been Mexico's forgotten corner. It has a heavy concentration of Maya Indians, tens of thousands of whom speak no Spanish and many of whom live in grinding poverty.
On Jan. 1, 1994, the Zapatista National Liberation Army rose up to demand greater democracy throughout Mexico and better social and economic conditions for Indian peasants in Chiapas, the country's poorest state. Some 145 people were killed in 12 days of fighting before a cease-fire was declared.
During the last formal talks in February 1994, the government promised political and economic reforms. But the Zapatistas said the reforms did not go far enough.
Hundreds of Indian supporters of the Zapatistas showed up for the scheduled start of talks Thursday morning, wearing colorful native garb and pro-rebel slogans. The government said their presence inside the security cordon in the town's main square had created a safety problem.