The Zapatista followers said they are encouraging voters to boycott elections on July 6 because of excessive militarization in the embattled state and stalled negotiations between rebel leaders and the federal government, United Press International reported.
Negotiations over constitutional changes that would bestow limited political autonomy to the country's 11 million Indians and allow them to redraw county boundaries, elect their own leaders and employ traditional jurisprudence hit a bitter impasse late last year.
Zapatistas have accused the government of failing to adhere to accords signed between federal officials and the militant rebel group in February 1996.
San Andres Larrainzar Mayor Juan Lopez Gonzales said Saturday that because members of the Mexican Army have infiltrated Chiapas in recent weeks, some 4,000 Indians have already decided to refrain from voting this summer.
Army troops and patrols have left citizens frightened, the town leader said. Several polling booths have been set up near military camps, "and people are scared that showing up to cast a ballot could result in something terrible," Lopez Gonzales asserted.
An affiliate of the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), Lopez Gonzales conceded, however, that abstaining from the federal electoral process could hinder the left-leaning party's chances to garner votes.
San Andres Larrainzar, Las Margaritas, Ococingo, Altamirano and numerous Zapatista-occupied territories in Chiapas are reportedly home to an estimated 115 voting stations.
The EZLN has occupied large parts of Chiapas since it first rose up in rebellion on New Year's Day 1994.
Members of the Conciliation and Pacification Commission (Cocopa) recently urged the Federal Electoral Institute to push for the safe installment of polling stations in rebel-ridden areas of Chiapas.
EZLN CALLS FOR SUPPORTERS TO ABSTAIN IN JULY The News Staff And Wire Services The News Mexico City, June 8, 1997.