Chiapas: Marcos announces national tour

Subcomandante Marcos of the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) in the southern state of Chiapas announced Sept. 16 he will leave the group’s jungle strongholds and embark on a six-month tour of all of Mexico, promising to “shake this country up from below—pick it up and turn it on its head.”

Addressing 22 EZLN commanders and hundreds of civilian supporters of the rebel movement at the jungle hamlet of La Garrucha, Marcos did not provide details on how many comandantes would accompany him on the tour, which he said would begin Jan. 1, 2006 in San Cristobal de las Casas, the central city of the Chiapas highlands.

Since breaking four years of near silence with a string of recent public appearances, Marcos has voiced harsh criticism of former Mexico City mayor Andres Manual Lopez Obrador, the left’s main candidate for next year’s presidential elections. Asked about the charismatic and fiery populist at La Garrucha, Marcos made an obscene gesture and said, “watch my finger.”

Another rebel leader, Comandante Moises, stated that the tour will be unarmed, and will include stops of a week or more in each of the country’s 32 states. “We are not going to try and provoke a war,” Moises said of the tour, which has been dubbed “The Other Campaign”—a reference to the presidential race. “We are going to promote whatever the people of Mexico want, a peaceful political struggle.”

Marcos said he planned to meet with migrants headed for the United States when the tour passes through northern Mexican border cities in May and June. (AP, Sept. 17 via Chiapas95)

The meeting in La Garrucha—the latest in a string of activist summits the rebels have been hosting in their territory in recent weeks—also marked the first time since April 2001 that the EZLN General Command, the Indigenous Revolutionary Clandestine Committee, met publicly to strategize with Mexican civil supporters. (APRO, Sept. 19 via Chiapas95)

Marcos is also back in the news due to hot gossip that he has for years maintained a love affair with a prominent journalist. The story is on the cover of the popular celebrity magazine Quien. The article, titled “The Sub’s Secret Love,” describes the 48-year-old Marcos as a “sex symbol of the jungle,” and reveals the details of an alleged relationship with Gloria Muñoz Ramirez, 37, a former reporter with the Mexico City daily La Jornada, who met Marcos more than 10 years ago. According to the magazine, the two have a son. In 1996, Muñoz Ramirez abandoned her life in the capital to live in Zapatista communities. In 2003, she published a book about the group that includes a warm introduction written by Marcos. (AP, Sept. 20 via Chiapas95)

In more political news, Marcos has come under harsh criticism from Felipe Calderon, likely presidential candidate from the ruling right-wing PAN, for refusing to meet with Luiz Alvarez, the Chiapas peace dialogue pointman of President Vicente Fox. (Criterios, Sept. 20 via Chiapas95)

The government has guaranteed “free passage” for the Zapatistas in the “Other Campaign.” (EFE, via Chiapas95, Aug. 27) COCOPA, the federal legislative body for the long-stalled Chiapas peace dialogue, affirms that the “Other Campaign” is legal. (APRO, Sept. 22 via Chiapas95)

However, Chiapas remains violently divided and highly militarized. Late last month, Mexico’s Public Security secretary, Ramon Martin Huerta, announced new patrols in Chiapas under the “Mexico Seguro” program, to halt the flow of drugs, arms and migrants from across the Guatemalan border. (El Universal, Aug. 30, via Chiapas95) Martin Huerta was killed Sept. 21 when his helicopter crashed in mountains near Mexico City. (Reuters, Sept. 22) He was replaced by Rafael Rios, a career man from the National Security and Investigation Center (CISEN), Mexico’s top intelligence agency. (Xinhua, Sept. 23)

One person was killed Sept. 21 on Chiapas’ Pacific coast in an apparent confrontation between armed fishermen and state police patrolling the zone in a crackdown on illegal fishing operations. (APRO, Sept. 21, via Chiapas95)

A new report from the Fray Bartoleme Human Rights Center in San Cristobal cites “systematic use” of torture in Chiapas, and demands changes to the state legal code, which it says violates international norms on human rights. The statement especially cites article 270 of the code, which it says permits arbitary and incommunicado detention. (Proceso, Sept. 3 via Chiapas95)

See our last post on Chiapas.