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Rebel Uprisings Rare, but Not Unknown in Recent Mexican History With AM-Mexico-Indians, Bjt

January 4, 1994

MEXICO CITY (AP) _ In recent years, Mexico has maintained a tradition of peace and stability enviable to many of its Latin American neighbors.

Civil unrest has been sporadic in a nation born of a revolution and counterrevolution that claimed every seventh citizen a few decades back.

The most recent was in 1974 and involved a teacher-turned-guerrilla, Lucio Cabanas, a Robin Hood or a murderer, depending on whom you ask.

He fashioned himself after Emiliano Zapata, hero of the Mexican Revolution of 1910-17.

So does the newly emerged Zapatista Army of National Liberation, a peasant- based rebel movement that initiated an uprising in the southern state of Chiapas on Saturday to press demands for better economic and social treatment.

The movements have their differences, but are linked by what they perceive as the government’s indifference to Mexico’s poorest.

Little is known about the new group. But people knew plenty about Cabanas, who became the target of one of the most largest manhunts in recent Mexican history.

The army had 16,000 of its best troops hunting for him in the Sierra Madre de Atoyac mountains, not far from the resort city of Acapulco.

Cabanas was a 6th-grade teacher in an impoverished mountain village who took to the hills after a dispute over school uniforms ended in bloodshed.

The school director had insisted that all students wear uniforms. Cabanas argued that most parents could not afford food, let alone uniforms.

A policeman was stabbed in the shoulder at a meeting at which Cabanas was speaking. Troops fired into the crowd, killing eight.

Cabanas fled and became a follower of Genaro Vasques Rojas, another teacher-turned-rebel, until Vasques Rojas died in a 1972 car wreck.

It was Cabanas’ movement after that, and the legend grew. At least 50 soldiers died trying to catch him.

Although he only had an estimated 300 hardcore followers, he was said to have wide support among the peasantry.

Some said he was a modern Robin Hood who toured the impoverished mountains with five beautiful machine-gun-wielding women as bodyguards. He is said to have carried a knapsack full of money to help any peasant who needed it.

Others said he was a murderer, kidnapper and robber who liked to torture people. He kidnapped a federal senator and held him more than 100 days, and is accused of killing the Acapulco police chief.

Cabanas was killed in a 1974 shootout with the army in Tecpan, a town 75 miles north of Acapulco. He was about 37.

At about that time a half-dozen small rebel groups formed the 23rd of September Communist League, which tried to begin an urban guerrilla movement in Mexico.

They claimed responsibility for attacks on security guards and are blamed for the attempted kidnapping of the sister of President-elect Jose Lopez Portillo in 1976. They also snatched the father-in-law of then-President Luis Echevarria in 1974 and held him several days.

The movement has not been heard from in recent years.

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