Latin American Report
Millions Vote in Rebel Referendum
The Rosenblueth Foundation, a private Mexican foundation specializing in opinion polls, reported on Mar. 25 that about 2.4 million Mexicans voted in a Mar. 21 "consultation" (unofficial plebiscite) called by the rebel Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN). The foundation, which agreed to organize the voting for the EZLN, says that the highest turnout was in the southern states of Chiapas and Oaxaca and in Mexico City. Another 44,000 Mexicans voted outside the country. [Melel Xojobal press summary 3/26/99 from Diario de Yucatan] The foundation had said earlier that the voting would done at 8,815 voting places; the plebiscite also involved some 3,418 community assemblies, following indigenous customs of voting after seeking consensus in discussion. [Nuevo Amanecer Press summary 3/19/99 from La Jornada (Mexico City)]
The plebiscite consisted of four questions, basically asking whether the voter agreed with the EZLN's positions on indigenous rights and the implementation of accords it signed with the government in 1996 [see Update #464]. With about 1.5 million votes counted as of Mar. 22, the Rosenblueth Foundation reported that more than 95% voted "yes" to the four questions. [Melel Xojobal 3/23/99 from LJ]
Inter Press Service says the turnout was only a fifth what the rebels had hoped for, but was still about double the more than 1 million votes in the EZLN's last consultation, in 1995. Mexico's population is nearly 96 million. [IPS 3/23/99] [More than 3 million Mexicans voted last August in a plebiscite the leftist Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) held on a government plan to bail out the banking system; see Update #449.] Mexican electoral official Emilio Zebadoa described the current plebiscite as the rebels' "first big effort to break the circle the government has built around them [since 1995] by showing that they still represent a very significant sector of public opinion." "Alexander," one of the 5,000 EZLN "delegates" who spread out across the country to promote the consultation, said Mexican president Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de Leon "has no choice but to listen to us now."
Financial Times 3/26/99