Chiapas: Zapatistas mark 20 years of rebellion

Subcomandante Marcos of the Zapatista rebels in Mexico's southern Chiapas state released a new communique Dec. 28 reflecting on the history of the movement since the New Year's Day 1994 uprising that announced it. Marcos took aim at "the criminals of the Mexican political class," but also "the for-pay press" for distorted portrayals of the movement. The communique emphasized that members of the press will not be permitted to attend commemorations of the uprising that the rebels will be holding in their communities Jan. 1. The statement acknowledged that the revolution the Zapatistas announced in 1994 has not acheived its aims, but expressed determination to continue resistance: "In December 2013, it is just as cold as 20 years ago, and today, like back then, the same flag protects us: that of rebellion," Marcos wrote. (AFP, Jan. 1; Latin Times, Dec. 30)

Al Jazeera America, noting the anniversary of the movement, said in its headline that the Zapatistas are "in decline," with the text stressing the suspicious reaction received when journalists arrived at one of the rebels' self-governing villages, Morelia. BBC News also noted a distrusting and taciturn reception when their team arrived at the Zapatista village of Oventic. But the BBC report was more balanced, noting the rebels' acheivement in maintaining their autonomous zone withn Chiapas for 20 years. The BBC spoke to longtime Chiapas journalist, publisher, political leader and supporter of the Zapatista movement, Concepción Villafuerte. She acknowledged that none of the Zapatistas' original aims have been achieved—neither "land, a home, food, health, education and work" for the indigenous peoples of Chiapas, nor "justice, democracy and freedom" for all Mexicans. But Villafuerte, speaking from the highland city of San Cristobal de Las Casas, frankly saw the rebel villages of Chiapas as liberated territory. "I think the Zapatistas are better off than we are," she said.