Rachel Neumann's online series "On the Road With the Zapatistas" has been impressive reportage. I hope she continues to cover the negotiations with the government and follows up. Neumann is a gifted writer in the same league with John Ross and John Reed.

Malcolm Terence
Santa Cruz, California


Regarding Rachel Neumann's online series: I find her articles somewhat one-sided. For example, Neumann says that President Vicente Fox has released only 50 of 100 Zapatista political prisoners. It should be pointed out that those Zapatista prisoners still in jail are incarcerated in states governed by the old ruling party, the PRI, which is hostile to both Fox and the Zapatistas. The jails are under the control of state governments, so it's rather unfair to blame Fox for not releasing them.

In fact, Fox is doing more than any of his predecessors to help release poor Mexicans who have been unjustly jailed by launching Mexico's first ever bail bond fund. This salient fact goes unmentioned in Neumann's reports. Neumann also fails to note the profound ambivalence, occasionally even outright hostility, that many Mexicans feel toward Subcomandante Marcos and the Zapatistas, as expressed in Mexican media coverage of the tour.

Fox is, after all, a legitimate and democratically elected leader—the first in over seven decades. By contrast, Marcos is not elected, and whatever the undoubted merits of his cause, the Mexican press has repeatedly pointed out that he lacks a democratic mandate. And the Zapatistas have repeatedly refused to hold elections even in the municipalities they control and where their supporters predominate.

Nor do the Zapatistas' supporters elsewhere in Mexico enjoy widespread popularity. The Party of the Democratic Revolution, which has closely identified its cause with the Zapatistas, came in a distant third in last year's presidential elections.

You wouldn't know any of this from reading Neumann's articles, which give the impression that Marcos is wildly popular among Mexicans and is winning the public-relations battle. Mexicans in general are far more sympathetic to the cause of indigenous rights than they are to Marcos himself, who is seen (rightly or wrongly) in many quarters—even among his former supporters in the Mexico City intelligentsia—as a self-promoting opportunist who is neither indigenous himself, nor particularly downtrodden.

Obviously, Neumann has every right to report based on her own sympathies, but her readers would be better served if they were offered a somewhat more balanced point of view.

Greg Gransden
Mexico City, Mexico

Rachel Neumann replies: True, Fox does not directly control the release of Zapatista political prisoners. Yet many of them are in Querértaro, a state governed by Fox's own National Action Party. Surely Fox could, if he chose, assert some influence. As to Gransden's second point, while no one elected Marcos or any of the Zapatista leaders, their three conditions for dialogue are the result of democratically conducted national consultations in 1994, 1995, and 1999. In the series, I pointed out what political opposition I observed, and my observations reflect current news polls that show support for the Zapatistas at 52 to 68 percent in Mexico City. As to Gransden's belief that many Mexicans are far more sympathetic to the cause of indigenous rights than to Marcos himself, I—and I think the Zapatistas as well—hope he is right.

Editor's Note: "Rebel Dignity" is a condensed version of Rachel Neumann's online series.


I have read Tom Robbins's "Newspapers' Hidden Hoods" [March 13]. Robbins, without ever attempting to contact me before the article was run, characterized me as a "LaChance ally." There is no factual basis for that statement. I have been, and always will be, my own man. The members have elected me for that very reason, not because of some imagined alliance with a co-worker at The New York Times.

The additional comment that I favor fighting the indictment of the Newspaper & Mail Deliverers Union implies that I am trying to fight law and order—the "good guys." What I am fighting is an injustice. This union never committed any crime. Ten years ago, less than one percent of the membership were guilty of individual crimes that benefited them, not the union. The district attorney is seeking to create a cushy job for a former prosecutor buddy that will cost our hard-working members (who toil by night to deliver the morning papers) hundreds of thousands of dollars. You bet I want to fight this case.

It would be nice if the Voice would instruct its reporters to check with the people they're going to write about. You might get more accurate articles.

Pat Lagan, Vice President
Newspaper & Mail Deliverers Union
Long Island City

Tom Robbins replies: Pat Lagan, check your messages. I left them, for both Lagan and NMDU president Frank Sparacino, at the union's Long Island City offices, to no avail. Lagan, who's running for NMDU president, may well be his "own man," but he's also a longtime ally of ex–NMDU president Doug LaChance, according to many NMDU members. Which is fine by me.


Robert Christgau's statements in "Albums While They Last" [February 20] were reckless, stubborn, and damn ridiculous. In discussing the results of the Pazz & Jop Critics' Poll in which OutKast scored a dramatic "win," Christgau wrote: "But in 2000 Eminem was the more momentous artist, and not only because he was white, or 'provocative.' It's because he was brilliant, galvanizing an audience everyone knew was there with rhymes of exceptional if not unduplicated technical bravado that layered levels of meaning hip-hop had always hinted at but never so fully exploited."

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