In This Review

Mexico, Waiting for Justice in Chiapas: A Report By Physicians for Human Rights and Human Rights Watch/Americas
Mexico, Waiting for Justice in Chiapas: A Report By Physicians for Human Rights and Human Rights Watch/Americas
By Human Rights Watch
Human Rights Watch, 1994, 169 pp.

While many Latin American countries grumbled that Mexico, dressed up in Harvard diplomas and glossy, technocratic, market-oriented clothes, was abandoning them for the erstwhile gringo nemesis, history struck with a vengeance. On New Year's Day 1994, hundreds of Indians, evoking one of Mexico's great rebels, Emiliano Zapata, seized several towns in Chiapas province. The shock to Mexico's new image could not have been more redolent of the race, class, religion, and land conflicts that had riven Mexico for centuries.

This balanced report graphically relates what happened after the uprising, blaming both sides for excesses. The Zapatistas abducted and endangered civilians, but the Mexican army, without sufficient oversight from civil authorities, committed arbitrary detention, torture, and summary executions.

In addition to detailed evidence, this report contains one of the best short accounts of the rebellion and makes clear the chronic incapacity of the regime to challenge entrenched interests. The Chiapas rebellion is only the most tragic example of the problems Mexico confronts as it seeks to free itself from the web of corruption and privilege one-party rule has spun.