Mexican Army Dismantles Bases
%mlink(STRY:; PHOTO:GUT101-032501; AUDIO:%)
SAN CRISTOBAL DE LAS CASAS, Mexico (AP) _ Troops tore down fences, barricades and barracks on Monday and began moving out of one of the last army bases that leftist rebels had demanded closed as part of a drive to move toward peace talks.
The gradual dismantling of the base at Guadalupe Tepeyac began on Wednesday and was continuing. The army has occupied the position since a 1995 government offensive in areas of southern Chiapas state where support for the Zapatista rebels runs high.
President Vicente Fox has shuttered five bases and promised to close this and another army camp west of San Cristobal, thus meeting the rebels’ demand that seven bases be dismantled. Fox has said two of the bases will be turned into community centers for local Indians.
Rebels had accused the government of announcing the base closure without complying.
Rebel supporter Hector Morales watched from a distance as soldiers carted off army equipment ranging from typewriters to clothing. Morales recalled how many of the Tojolabal Indian residents fled to the surrounding hills when the army moved in 1995.
``Those who fled want to come back here, to their village, because they’re very poor,″ said Morales.
Fox has also released about 100 Zapatista supporters from jail _ another 10 walked out of Chiapas prisons Monday _ and sent an Indian rights bill to congress, all actions demanded by the rebels as a precondition to returning to peace talks stalled since 1996.
The rebel leaders are scheduled to have another demand fulfilled Wednesday, when they will be allowed to address legislators on the floor of congress.