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Signs of Rebel Uprising Still Litter the Road to Ocosingo With PM-Mexico-Rebellion, Bjt

January 13, 1994

HUIXTAN, Mexico (AP) _ In the painful days since Indian rebels seized communities in this impoverished region of southern Mexico, townsfolk have been cut off from the outside world.

Not only have they not been able to leave since the New Year’s Day uprising, they have been unable to call relatives because phone service remains out.

Until the military took down the roadblock just south of San Cristobal de las Casas on the main southbound highway on Wednesday, journalists and human rights activists were unable to get any information from the area.

Along the 60-mile stretch of road now opened, white flags fluttered in the wind from wooden shacks and adobe homes.

Some were emblazoned with the letters PRI, the Spanish acronym for the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party, in power for 65 years. Graffiti was also on many walls in favor of the rebel Zapatista National Liberal Army.

There were telltale signs of the conflict, such as five trucks abandoned helter-skelter in the roadway, where they were attacked by government forces after the uprising began.

A little girl’s plastic sandals and a child’s storybook lay on the ground.

Also abandoned was a minibus, where 14 suspected rebels where shot and killed by soldiers during a firefight near the Rancho Nuevo army base on Jan. 2.

Red Cross buses carried hundreds of people out of the area, many of them people who just happened to be visiting relatives to celebrate the New Year.

In Ocosingo, President Carlos Salinas de Gortari’s peace commissioner for the Chiapas conflict, Manuel Camacho Solis, was mobbed by townsfolk as he toured the marketplace where the bodies of people killed in fighting lay as recently as a week ago.

″We want you to tell the campesinos that violence is not the way to solve problems,″ said Jesus Luis Juarez, a resident.

In Huixtan, Julia Torres Sanchez’s golden-brown eyes were full of tears when she talked about three sons whom she hadn’t heard from since the uprising.

″I want to know how my three sons are,″ the 68-year-old woman said as said as she stood in the doorway of her adobe home.

″I have never before seen the kind of terrors that I have seen in this town. And the worst part is that there are rumors that the rebels are still up there, in the foothills.″

In the nearby village of Oxchuc, residents complained they were running out of food and the government hasn’t been helping them.

About 700 people from a nearby mountain town of Tobilja that suffered aerial attacks last week have sought refuge in the village school.

The refugees, all Indians, declined to talk to reporters and were so frightened that they wouldn’t even give their names to visiting members of the government’s National Commission on Human Rights.

″We’re hungry, we’re really hungry,″ a young man told the human rights representatives. ″Most of us haven’t eaten since yesterday.″

Oxchuc native Osvaldo Najera, 24, said townsfolk had set up their own informal community watch since the rebels retreated from the town on Jan. 4. Since then, they’ve arrested eight suspected guerrillas and turned them over to authorities.

″The guerrillas better not come back because if they do, we’ll arrest them again,″ he said. ″We might even kill them.″