Aftershocks of revolution: nuncios to videos - Chiapas, Mexico guerrilla revoltAftershocks of revolution: nuncios to videos - Chiapas, Mexico guerrilla revolt

CUERNAVACA, Mexico - Snowballing opposition to Archbishop Girolamo Prigione, Mexico's unpopular papal nuncio, is the only topic that can nudge its way past Chiapas onto the front pages of Mexico's national newspapers.

On Feb. 2, in the Pacific coast town of Colima, Prigione, in full episcopal regalia, ran from reporters across the town square and hid in a cosmetology and cooking school. The local bishop exhorted the reporters not to divide the church by reporting on Prigione's problems.

This week two leading Protestant clergymen joined the growing clamor for Prigione's resignation. Raul Ruiz Avila, the Methodist bishop of Mexico City, said, "The nuncio has become a political interventionist and does not belong in our country." Alberto Montalvo, president of the National Forum of Evangelical Churches, said, "If the papal representative is not positive and does not represent a spirit of peace,...we believe he should leave Mexico."

On Feb. 1, a group of 46 Catholic intellectuals and lay leaders representing 25 significant organizations chided Mexico's bishops for their support of Prigione and demanded his resignation.

Meanwhile, press coverage of human rights abuses in Chiapas has provoked ugly reactions. On Feb. 1, La Jornada, Mexico's leading daily, revealed that its director general and five of its reporters and editors had received death threats from a group calling itself The Mexican Anti-Communist Front for being partial to the EZLN, the Zapatista National Liberation Army, in the Chiapas crisis.

La Jornada appealed to the international press and to human rights organizations to come to its aid.

Quick to react, the Permanent Commission of the National Congress condemned the threats and demanded that government authorities investigate and expose the origin of "these attacks and calumnies."

On Feb. 5, however, six reporters from La Jornada, Proceso and Reforma were attacked near their hotel in San Cristobal de Las Casas by a group identified as sons of wealthy Chiapas landowners. Two of the reporters were seriously injured.

Mexico's right-wing press has not been silent in the face of the Chiapas struggle. The Feb. 2 issue of Siempre, a weekly whose readers are well-to-do Mexicans, insisted that Bishop Samuel Ruiz of San Cristobal de las Casas is an arms merchant who has been selling weapons to the guerillas for years. It also claimed that the legendary masked sub-commandante, Marcos, is a Catholic priest, although it produced little or no proof, and that a Canadian Vincentian sister, Janine Biazot, was one of the rebels who captured the town of Las Margaritas. Another article laid the blame for the uprising squarely on the Jesuits and liberation theologians who have unsettled the Indian way of life.

Cable Sixth of July, an independent TV production studio, sold 4,000 copies of its video, "The War in Chiapas (Uncensored)," on the first day of its release. Groups all over Mexico are sharing the video, which graphically depicts human rights abuses by the Mexican military and bombardment of poor neighborhoods. The TV studio is named for the date of what some term the "great fraud," the presidential election of 1988.

Little noticed in the EZLN struggle in Chiapas is the presence of women in all ranks of the militants' leadership, including Sub-commandante Ramona. This week the EZLN released to the press its ten commandments on the role of women in the revolution.

"Women regardless of race, religion, color or political affiliation," the statement begins, "may participate in the struggle at any level their talents and interests dictate. They have the right to work and receive a just salary. They may decide how many children they wish to bear.

"They have the right to participate in decision-making and may vote in all elections. They and their children have the first right to medical attention. They have the right to an education and to freely choose whom they will marry. No man has the right to harm a woman either within the family or outside of it. Violators of this right will immediately and severely punished. Women may occupy any position of leadership in civilian or military life."