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Peace Talks Resume in Mexico

January 15, 1995

SAN CRISTOBAL DE LAS CASAS, Mexico (AP) _ Peace talks between the government and Mayan rebels renewed Sunday after a 10-month break, bringing hope of progress toward ending the smoldering conflict.

A mediation commission announced that Interior Minister Esteban Moctezuma, perhaps the most powerful member of President Ernesto Zedillo’s Cabinet, was heading the government delegation.

They said the talks were talking place at an undisclosed location in the Lacandon Jungle and were being mediated by Roman Catholic Bishop Samuel Ruiz.

In a separate communique, the rebel Zapatista National Liberation Army indicated the talks would not result in a rapid peace agreement.

They said the meeting was meant to ``agree on measures to ease the belligerant climate″ and prevent armed clashes to prevent a renewed outbreak of the conflict that began with a Jan. 1, 1994, uprising.

About 160 people died, by official count, before a Jan. 12 cease-fire halted the fighting in the remote Lacandon jungle region of Mexico’s southernmost state.

But the meeting itself was a sign of hope. No direct peace talks had taken place since March 2, when the government of former President Carlos Salinas de Gortari promised a sweeping series of political reforms and aid packages to end the rebellion.

But in June, the rebels rejected the package, saying it failed to guarantee democracy in Mexico.

National elections on Aug. 21 seemed to be a setback for the peace effort because no region in Mexico suffered so many allegations of electoral fraud or foulups as Chiapas, where the rebellion is centered.

Opposition party gubernatorial candidate Amado Avendano, who sympathized with the rebel goals, has refused to concede defeat and his supporters have seized a series of city halls throughout Chiapas to demand the resignation of the official victor, Eduardo Robledo of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party.

In December, the rebels seized at least 38 other villages and the army advanced, bringing the threat of renewed army-Zapatista closer than at any point since January. But the rebels faded back into the jungle before there was any more fighting.

At least six people, including two policemen, were killed last week when supporters of Avendano clashed with officials while seizing a city hall in rural Chiapas.

That incident led both sides to urge a cooling of passions in the state.