Mexico: charges against Zapatista leader expire

The first district court of Chiapas​ in southern Mexico on Feb. 23 ruled that charges of "terrorism, rebellion and sedition" brought almost exactly 21 years ago against Subcommander Marcos and 12 other leaders of the Zapatista rebel movement have officially expired under the country's statute of limitations. Marcos would have faced 40 years in prison under the charges, which were brought February 1995 against Rafael Sebastian Guillen, a long-missing philosophy professor named by authorities as as subcommander's "real" identity. Marcos was last seen in public in May 2015, although he had earlier issued what he said would be his final communique, announcing that he was to be replaced by a "Subcommander Galeano." (AFP, TeleSur, Feb. 24; El Universal, Feb. 23)

The news comes a week after Pope Francis made a visit to Chiapas—the first ever by a pontiff—and paid homage at the resting place of Samuel Ruiz García in the cathedral of San Cristóbal de las Casas, dubbed the "Cathedral of Peace." As bishop of the Chiapas highlands during the Zapatista uprising in 1991, Ruiz brokered a peace dialogue with the rebels, and had long been an advocate on behalf of the region's impoverished Maya indigenous majority. Francis' visit continues his effort to seek a rapprochement with indigenous peoples of the Americas. He used the Chiapas visit as occassion to announce a decree authorizing the use of indigenous languages in Mass celebrations. The Mass he led at San Cristóbal included readings and song in Maya tonues. (BBC Mundo, Feb. 16; El Economista, Feb. 14; AP, Feb. 7)