MEXICO CITY ( - During a press conference held at the end of the Mexican Bishops' Conference ordinary assembly on Thursday, Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera of Mexico City denounced a massive sterilization campaign launched by the government among the Indian population in the southern state of Chiapas, "taking advantage of the tension and violence that currently reigns in the region."

      According to Cardinal Rivera, in the recent weeks several health workers have begun to convince large groups of poor women in the Indian region of Chiapas to be sterilized. The cardinal said these actions were "the climax of a process started in early 1997, when the Mexican government launched a national campaign to reduce the poor population through the massive distribution of contraception methods, preservatives, and recently free sterilization surgeries." Chiapas has been gripped by violence since 1994 when Zapatista rebels, mainly drawn from Indian villages, took up arms against the government.

      "It is regrettable that in the context of Chiapas, where so many things are dramatically needed, the government has a sterilization campaign as its official response to the native people," the cardinal said. "It is easier to sterilize native people than to propose a development and educational program," he said, adding: "The government must launch new developments and peace strategies instead of fighting the poor as if they were the disease and not the reason for government."

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April 28, 1998 volume 9, no. 82         DAILY CATHOLIC