Mexico's Zapatista rebels say they are planning to go on a nationwide tour to build a peaceful leftist alliance pushing for a new constitution at home and contributing to efforts to defeat "neoliberalism" internationally.
Hoping to widen their movement beyond its traditional focus of indigenous rights in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas, the group said on Thursday night that they would seek out "all people who with us want to organize, struggle and build perhaps the last hope of preventing our nation from dying".
They also promised "to ally ourselves with struggles of resistance against neoliberalism around the world", and mooted an international conference of like-minded groups at the end of the year. The group has yet to reveal when the tour will begin or whether it will be led by the rebels' pipe-smoking, poetry-writing leader, Sub-Comandante Marcos.
Marcos took the Zapatistas on a tour four years ago, giving romantic, radical speeches to packed town squares throughout the country.
The momentum created by that tour faded after the national congress voted against a constitutional reform enshrining indigenous rights. The Zapatistas returned to their jungle hideouts, cutting off almost all communication with the outside world.
The announcement of the latest tour followed statements promising a "new step" in the Zapatista struggle.
Earlier in the week President Vicente Fox welcomed the rebels apparent move towards mainstream politics. But the latest statements have not confirmed rumors that the group is about to disarm completely.
Some analysts claim that the attempt to broaden the Zapatistas' appeal is an attempt to smooth over internal divisions arising from the failure to deliver improvements for poverty-stricken supporters. Others claim the group needs to make its presence felt ahead of Mexico's general elections.
© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2005