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Sister of rebel leader to aid Peña Nieto election bid

January 21, 2012

When presidential frontrunner Enrique Peña Nieto unveiled his campaign team last week, one name in particular raised eyebrows.

Among his staff, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) candidate included Paloma Guillen Vicente, the sister of Subcomandante Marcos, the mysterious masked spokesman of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN).

The Tamaulipas representative in the Chamber of Deputies, Paloma Guillen is the sister of Rafael Sebastian Guillen Vicente, who is widely believed to be Subcomandante Marcos, the most prominent voice of the Zapatista movement.

Born in Tepico, Tamaulipas, Rafael Guillen became a professor at the National Autonomous University of Mexico before joining the indigenous rebel movement and leading an armed uprising on January 1, 1994.

That his sister is to aid the PRI in its bid to reclaim power no doubt disappoints Marcos, who holds the party and its candidate in disdain. In a letter published last month, Marcos derided Peña Nieto as “a bad B actor, the type that appear on soap operas and blabber some speech that no one even corrects.”

He described the PRI as “a group of vultures that have realized that Peña Nieto is no more than an orphaned puppet and that they need to get their hands on him because upon arriving at the presidency, it isn’t him that will matter but rather the ventriloquist that manages him.”

Marcos continued, “his designation as presidential candidate will be one more demonstration of the decomposition of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, and the dispute over who will manage him will be a fight to the death (and for priistas this is not rhetorical).”

Based in Chiapas, the EZLN first rose up in arms in 1994 to protest the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), under which many indigenous farmers lost the land rights they had won in the Mexican Revolution. The Zapatistas were forced to retreat after a brief conflict with the Mexican Army, but still live to this day in autonomous communities in Chiapas.

Attacked by the PRI under presidents Carlos Salinas and Ernesto Zedillo, the Zapatistas initially held strong support throughout Mexico and were credited with helping bring an end to the PRI’s 71-year unbroken rule in 2000.

Maintaining a strong distrust of all three of Mexico’s major parties, Marcos and the Zapatistas tend to operate outside of conventional politics. In the 2006 presidential election, Marcos toured Mexico on a motorbike, proclaiming himself “Delegate Zero,” the head of the “Other Campaign” to create solidarity among resistance groups and Mexico’s oppressed indigenous population.

Although their profile in Mexico has waned in recent years, the Zapatistas still enjoy strong international support. Proponents of participatory democracy, they are considered a leading influence of the anti-globalization and anti-neoliberal movements, including the ongoing Occupy protests in Wall Street and around the world.

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