Mexico: dialogue with EPR guerillas?

An AP report portrays President Felipe Calderón's decision to open talks with Popular Revolutionary Army (EPR) as part of his push to open the oil industry to private partnerships—given the guerillas' attacks on pipelines last year. "The government wanting to negotiate is a prudent move and a solid move," said George Baker, a Houston, Texas-based analyst who follows Mexico's state-owned oil company, Pemex. "But it's not a move out of strength, but out of weakness. The prospect of a military defense of these pipelines is not something any government or any company wants to contemplate."

The report also garbles both the name of the rebel group and its acronym, rendering it "People's Revolutionary Army, known as the ERP". (AP, May 1)

In an April 28 communiqué, the EPR offered to suspend attacks during a dialogue with the government through intermediaries. It has been seeking the release of two followers it maintains were disappeared by the government last May. Government Secretary Juan Camilo Mouriño said the administration would accept the proposal if the guerillas ceased their campaign of sabotage but did not offer them amnesty. (NYT, April 29)

The government has named an "intermediation commission" made up of federal legislators and prominent intellectuals (mostly of the left) and Samuel Ruiz, the former Chiapas Bishop who led the dialogue with the Zapatista rebels in the 1990s. The commission released a statement calling on the government to clarify conditions for the talks after meeting at the Mexico City offices of the NGO Services and Consulting for Peace (Serapaz). In addition to Ruiz, the signatories include Miguel Ángel Granados Chapa, Enrique González Ruiz, Juan de Dios Hernández, Rosario Ibarra de Piedra, Gilberto López y Rivas and Carlos Montemayor y Samuel Ruiz García. (Cronica de Hoy, May 2)

The chief of the Oaxaca Ministerial Police, Pedro Hernández, who has been called to Mexico City pending an investigation by the federal Special Sub-prosecutor for Organized Delinquency (SIEDO) into the disappearance of EPR militants Edmundo Reyes Amaya and Gabriel Alberto Cruz, protested that he is serving as a "scapegoat." (Milenio, May 1)

See our last posts on Mexico and the guerilla movement.

Mexico: rebel talks advancing

On May 9 the government of Mexican president Felipe Calderón Hinojosa accepted a seven-member mediation commission proposed by the rebel Popular Revolutionary Army (EPR) on April 28 to start a talks to end 12 years of conflict. The center-right government had initially rejected the proposed mediation commission, which would be made up mostly of leftists or left-leaning intellectuals; on April 29 the government proposed a direct meeting between the two sides in which the commission members would be "social witnesses" rather than mediators. The EPR responded with an angry communique released on May 7, dismissing the government's proposal as "perfidious, vulgar [and] cheating." The government then said it would accept the commission in order "to establish the principles of understanding and a process of dialogue."

The EPR emerged in a series of bloody attacks on police and military outposts in 1996. Afterwards the group was relatively quiet while various factions split off, but in July 2007 the EPR bombed pipelines belonging to the state oil monopoly, Petroleos Mexicanos (PEMEX), in a campaign for the release of two of its leaders, Edmundo Reyes Amaya and Alberto Cruz Sanchez, who were apparently detained in the southern state of Oaxaca on May 25, 2007. The release of the leaders is one of the main issues in the proposed talks.

The mediators include the writer Carlos Montemayor, who is the commission's spokesperson; anthropologi