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.