Zapatista “Other Campaign” on the road

The Zapatista rebels' "Other Campaign"—thusly named in reference to the presidential campaigns now underway in Mexico—has held rallies at various locations around the state of Chiapas since it took off from the jungle village of La Garrucha on New Years Day.

"In the coming days we are going to hear a ton of promises, lies, trying to give us hope that, yes, things are now going to get better if we change one government for another," said Subcommander Marcos to a crowd of 4,000 masked followers Jan. 3 in the town square of Palenque, site of the famous Mayan ruins. "Time and time again, every year, every three years, every six years, they sell us this lie." Supporters, mostly masked pro-Zapatista campesinos who lined the road as the caravan arrived, held banners with slogans reading "Death to the Free Trade Agreement" and "Death to Neoliberal Globalization." One banner bore a famous image of Che Guevara and the words "Towards Victory Forever. Death to Capitalism and Savage Imperialism." Leftist supporters from the cities were also there Both red-and-black anarchist flags and hammer-and-sickle communist banners could be seen.

"This is only going to change from the bottom and from the left," Marcos continued, calling for construction of a world "where we can be respected for the work that we do, the value that we have as human beings and not for our bank accounts, or…the type of vehicle we drive or the clothing we wear; a world where workers occupy a place that they deserve."

Marcos leads the caravan on a black motorcycle equipped with a special box for his pet chicken, known as "the Penguin" because it has deformed feet and hobbles. (NYT, Jan. 6)

In his comments as the caravan took off from La Garrucha, Zapatista leaders stresssed the Other Campaign's ecumenical spirit. "To the brothers who aren't Zapatistas, we respect all of you, whatever your organization, party or religion," said a masked man, introduced as the rebel leader of La Garrucha. "We aren't looking for a fight with anybody." (AP, Jan. 2)

But at the campaign's Jan. 5 stop in Chiapa de Corzo, Marcos directly criticized the main left parrty, the PRD, and it presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. "He is not of the left, as I have said again and again. You can imagine what you want, but he is telling you lies. He is assembling the same team as Salinas de Gortari," the disgraced former president from the long-ruling PRI political machine. (La Jornada, Jan. 5)

Marcos also had harsh words for the PRI. "We're going to send this party to hell," said Marcos during a rally in the squatter community of La Hormiga on the outskirts of San Cristobal de Las Casas. He accused the party of corruption "from [presidential candidate Roberto] Madrazo to the lowest party official."

Several hundred people braved a rainstorm to attend the rally, including many exiles from the nearby village of San Juan Chamula who have been forced to flee their homes in recent decades by PRI-linked paramilitary groups. Marcos accused local PRI affiliates of threatening the Zapatistas with violence to try and prevent the rally from taking place. (El Universal, Jan. 5)

At the Other Campaign stop on Palenque, a detachment of Federal Preventative Polive stood by, ostensibly in reposne to threats from local land-owners. (APRO, Jan. 3)

The local Human Rights Solidarity Network (REDH) issued a statement just as the Ohter Campaign was launched claiming that federal and state police had erected new roadblocks outside La Realidad, the jungle village which is the Zapatistas' unofficial capital. (El Orbe, Jan. 4) The army also erected new roadblocks at Rancho Nuevo, the main military base for the Chiapas highlands, bring traffic in and out of San Cristobal to a crawl. (APRO, Dec. 28) In the prelude to the launch of the Other Campaign, the Zapatista General Command issued a communique warning of escalated threats and violence from armed groups on the ground in their zones of control and sympathy. (EZLN communique, Dec. 25) Major Moises is to assume military command of the Zapatista Army while Marcos is on national tour. (El Orbe, Jan. 2)

The first public meeting of the Other Campaign was held Jan. 4 at an indigenous university named the University of the Earth, based in a poor barrio named Nueva Maravilla, which is on the outskirts of San Cristobal. (Indymedia Chiapas, Jan. 4) Comandantes Tacho, Kelly and Hortensia addressed the crowd. (Indymedia Chiapas, Jan. 2)

At his Jan. 2 comments in San Cristobal, Marcos called on his followers to carry out actions "rich in imagination" to make the "Other Campaign" contrast with this year's electoral campaigns. "We believe it is necessary that public events be realized. Not in the style of the old politics, meaning a big meeting where one speaks and the others applaud or sleep or eat the free food," he said. (Concepcion Villafuerte for the Amado Avendaño Figueroa Brigade,Narco News, Jan. 3)

In response to a call from Marcos for Mexico's other guerilla groups not to interfere with the Other Campaign, the Popular Revolutionary Army (EPR) issued a statement reasserting their committment to armed struggle, but also calling the Other Campaign a positive step towards "building a national program of anti-capitalist struggle."
(Estesur, Dec. 28)

From Chiapas, the Other Campaign heads for Merida and the Yucatan. (APRO, Dec. 29)

All sources online at Chiapas95

See our last post on the Zapatista struggle.

  1. A Penguin in the Selva Lacandona


    Alright, a promise is a promise. At the beginning of this document I told you I was going to tell you about the penguin that’s here, in the mountains of the Mexican Southeast, so here goes.

    It took place in one of the insurgent barracks, a little more than a month ago, just before the Red Alert. I was on my way, heading towards the position that was to be the headquarters of the Comandancia General of the EZLN. I had to pick the insurgentes and insurgentas up there, the ones who were going to make up my unit during the Red Alert. The commander of the barracks, a Lieutenant Colonel Insurgente, was finishing up the dismantling of the camp and was making arrangements for moving the impedimenta. In order to lighten the burden of the support bases who were providing supplies for the insurgent troops, the soldiers in this unit had developed a few subsistence measures of their own: a vegetable garden and a farm. They decided they would take as many of the vegetables as they could, and the rest would be left to the hand of god. As for the chickens, hens and roosters, the alternative was to eat them or leave them. “Better we eat them than the federales,” the men and women (most of them young people under the age of 20) who were maintaining that position decided, not without reason. One by one, the animals ended up in the pot and, from there to the soldiers’ soup dishes. There weren’t very many animals either, so in a few days the poultry population had been reduced to two or three specimens.

    When only one remained, on the precise day of departure, what happened happened…

    The last chicken began walking upright, perhaps trying to be mistaken for one of us and to pass unnoticed with that posture. I don’t know much about zoology, but it does not appear that the anatomical makeup of chickens is made for walking upright, so, with the swaying produced by the effort of keeping itself upright, the chicken was teetering back and forth, without being able to come up with a precise course. It was then that someone said “it looks like a penguin.” The incident provoked laughter which resulted in sympathy. The chicken did, it’s true, look like a penguin, it was only missing the white bib. The fact is that the jokes ended up preventing the “penguin” from meeting the same fate as its compa├▒eros from the farm.

    The hour of departure arrived, and, while checking to be sure nothing was left, they realized that the “penguin” was still there, swaying from one side to another, but not returning to its natural position. “Let’s take it,” I said, and everyone looked at me to see if I were joking or serious. It was the insurgenta To├▒ita who offered to take it. It began raining, and she put it in her lap, under the heavy plastic cape which To├▒ita wore to protect her weapon and her rucksack from the water. We began the march in the rain.

    The penguin arrived at the EZLN Headquarters and quickly adapted to the routines of the insurgent Red Alert. It often joined (never losing the posture of a penguin) the insurgents and insurgentas at cell time, the hour of political study. The theme during those days was the 13 zapatista demands, and the compa├▒eros summed it up under the title “Why We Are Struggling.” Well, you’re not going to believe me, but when I went to the cell meeting, under the pretext of looking for hot coffee, I saw that it was the penguin who was paying the most attention. And, also, from time to time, it would peck at someone who was sleeping in the middle of the political talk, as if chiding him to pay attention.

    There are no other animals in the barracks…I mean except for the snakes, the “chibo” tarantulas, two field rats, the crickets, ants, an indeterminate (but very large) number of mosquitoes and a cojolito who came to sing, probably because it felt called by the music – cumbias, rancheras, corridos, songs of love, of spite – which emanated from the small radio which is used to hear the morning news by Pascal Beltr├ín on Antena Radio and then “Plaza P├║blica” by Miguel ├üngel Granados Chapa on Radio UNAM.

    Well, I told you there weren’t any other animals, so it would seem normal that “penguin” would think that we were its kind and tend to behave as if it were one more of us. We hadn’t realized how far it had gone until one afternoon when it refused to eat in the corner it had been assigned, and it went over to the wooden table. Penguin made a racket, more chicken-like than penguin-like, until we understood that it wanted to eat with us. You should understand that Penguin’s new identity prevented the former chicken from flying the minimum necessary for getting up on the bench, and so it was insurgenta Erika who lifted it up and let it eat from her plate.

    The insurgent captain in charge had told me that the chicken, I mean penguin, did not like to be alone at night, perhaps because it feared that the possums might confuse it with a chicken, and it protested until someone took it to their tarp. It wasn’t very long before Erika and To├▒ita made it a white bib out of fabric (they wanted to paint it [Penguin]with lime or house paint, but I managed to dissuade them…I think), so that there would be no doubt that it was a penguin, and no one would confuse it with a chicken.

    You may be thinking that I am, or we are, delirious, but what I’m telling you is true. Meanwhile, Penguin has become part of the Comandancia General of the Ezeta, and perhaps those of you who come to the preparatory meetings for the “Other Campaign” might see it with your own eyes. It could also be expected that Penguin might be the mascot for the EZLN football team when it faces, soon, the Milan Internazionale. Someone might then perhaps take a picture for a souvenir. Perhaps, after a while and looking at the image, a girl or a boy might ask: “Mama, and who are those next to the Penguin?” (sigh)

    Do you know what? It occurs to me now that we are like Penguin, trying very hard to be erect and to make ourselves a place in Mexico, in Latin America, in the World. Just as the trip we are about to take is not in our anatomy, we shall certainly go about swaying, unsteady and stupidly, provoking laughter and jokes. Although perhaps, also like Penguin, we might provoke some sympathy, and someone might, generously, protect us and help us, walking with us, to do what every man, woman or penguin should do, that is, to always try to be better in the only way possible, by struggling.

    Vale. Salud and an embrace from Penguin (?)

    From the mountains of the Mexican Southeast

    Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos

    Mexico, July of 2005