Father of Mexican rebel leader dies

The father of the man whom the federal government has identified as Zapatista rebel leader Subcomandante Marcos died in northern Mexico on Monday, Mexican news media reported. Marcos has never confirmed that he is who the government says he is: Rafael Sebastian Guillen, son of furniture seller Alfonso Guillen Guillen, of the city of Tampico, in the northern state of Tamaulipas.

The Zapatistas, based in the jungles of the southern state of Chiapas, did not respond immediately to requests for comment Monday night after reports of Alfonso Guillen's death appeared on newspaper Web sites and Mexican radio stations. The reports said Guillen's funeral was scheduled for Tuesday morning in Tampico.

Luis H. Alvarez, President Vicente Fox's special envoy to the Zapatistas, offered his condolences to Marcos in a letter that the government later distributed to national and foreign news media. "If you are not Rafael Sebastian ... I beg you to not take offense to these lines I write to you today, in a gesture of sorrow and in memory of a good man," Alvarez wrote.

Marcos has been at the public forefront of the Zapatista movement since rebels burst from the jungles of the southern Mexican state of Chiapas on Jan. 1, 1994, to occupy several cities in the name of Indian rights and socialism.

The rebels quickly settled into a tense cease-fire with the government. Since then their movement has been largely nonviolent. In 1995, the federal government officially identified Marcos as Guillen, a former university instructor, reports the AP. I.L.

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