Mexico's Zapatista Leader Marcos Says He's Stepping Down From Post

Mexican rebel leader Subcomandante Marcos said Sunday he is withdrawing as the spokesman for the leftist Zapatista rebels, but archly suggested he may just be changing his name.

Marcos signed his latest statement posted on the rebel's official website as Subcomandante Galeano, apparently in honor of a rebel stalwart killed earlier this month in a clash with a rival Indian farm group.

"I declare that Subcomandante Marcos ceases to exist," Marcos wrote. "Through my voice he will no longer speak for the Zapatista National Liberation Army."

Marcos frequently bridled at the fact that he, a light-skinned non-Indian, had become the best known of the Zapatista leaders. He said his public figure "became more of a distraction than a spokesman."

The change being announced, Marcos wrote, "is a logical outgrowth of the internal changes that have occurred in the EZLN," as the movement is known for its initials in Spanish.

It was unclear whether the statement posted Sunday means Marcos will continue to speak or write under the name "Galeano."

Marcos is known for sometimes writing and speaking in allegories and he has frequently disappeared from public view for years at a time, ever since the Zapatistas staged a brief armed uprising in 1994 for greater Indian rights.

He has worn a ski mask in public since the uprising, but has been identified by the government as a former university instructor, Rafael Sebastián Guillén.

Based in the heavily Indian southern state of Chiapas, the Zapatistas have clung to land seized during the uprising, refusing government aid and setting up their own schools and governance systems.

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