Mexico's Zapatista rebels emerged from their southern jungle hideouts Sunday to begin what they say will be a six-month nationwide tour.

The rebels, who are traveling unarmed, hope to build support for indigenous people's rights and the poor ahead of Mexico's presidential election in July.

The tour was kicking off in the city of San Cristobal de las Casas in Chiapas state, where rebel leader Subcomandante Marcos was due to speak.

The mysterious ski mask-wearing leader plans to meet with other leftist organizations throughout Mexico in an effort to broaden the Zapatistas' appeal.

The rebel leader is asking that he now be called "Delegate Zero."

The tour's start coincides with the 12th anniversary of a Zapatista uprising demanding greater rights for Indians and autonomy for the Chiapas region.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.