The Zapatista “Other Campaign” continues to advance through central Mexico. On March 20 in the Jalisco city of El Salto, Subcommander Marcos convened the first National Worker Encuentro, attended by dissidents from Mexico’s official labor unions and what they called “neocharrismo“—including leaders of a recent strike at the local Euzkadi tire plant. (Charro is popular slang for Mexico’s corrupt labor bosses.) Marcos called for a new labor opposition to Mexico’s government, and to whichever party is elected in July’s presidential race. (APRO, March 20)
In a meeting in Irapuato, Guanajuato, with members of the National Union of Popular and Independent Left Organizations (UCOPI), Marcos attacked the recent Chapultepec Pact on economic reform (signed last year by Mexico’s top political and industrial leaders), saying it will “convert the Mexican state into a police state” and “mean the end of our sovereignty.” (La Jornada, March 15)
Marcos also met with Huichol indigenous leaders at the village of Bajio del Tule in Jalisco’s remote Sierra Norte. Said Maurilio de la Cruz Avila, representing the Council of Elders of San Sebastian Teponahuxtla: “We thank the land; it sustains us. For this we are in struggle. We will not sell our mother. Not one of the Wixaritari [Huichol] brothers would think of selling one piece of earth. This is the struggle against the government and the invader.” (La Jornada, March 19)
Marcos tied the struggle for indigenous autonomy to the wider struggle for social change in Mexico: “It is not possible to extend the autonomy of the indigenous peoples beyond what has been acheived without a radical transformation of the system… If we leave things going the way they are, we will all be destroyed, individually or as a group, as long as we are separated.” (La Jornada, March 18)
Meanwhile, Mexico’s Government Secretariat declared an official end to the conflict in Chiapas. Government minister Carlos Abascal formally announced that “free movement” had been restored throughout Chiapas, which has been divided into zones under government or rebel control since the 1994 rebellion by the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN). Abascal described the Zapatistas’ new move towards a mainstream “political terrain” as a “positive development.” (World Market Analysis, March 17)
Speaking in the central square of Aguascalientes city March 16, Marcos contested this claim. He denied that the government has ceased its “vigilance” over the Zapatista communities or that the “gray zone” of contested territory has disappeared. “The Federal Army continues to invade indigenous communities, and not only Zapatistas, but throughout Chiapas,” said the rebel leader. (La Jornada, March 17)
Harassment of Zapatista supportrs and rights workers continues to be reported from San Cristobal de Las Casas, the main town in the Chiapas highlands. On March 16, the home of Norma Medina, local director of the Catholic relief organization Caritas, and her husband, David Mendez, a member of the Fray Bartolome de Las Casas Human Rights Center, was borken into. The couple said only a computer was taken, and that other objects of value were left, although scattered around the premesis—including their childrens’ clothes and toys. (La Jornada, March 17)
Onesimo Hidalgo of the San Cristobal-based Chiapas Economic-Political Investigative Center for Community Action (CIEPAC) was interviewed by Proceso magazine March 20 on his new book, Tras los pasos de una guerra inconclusa: 12 años de militarización en Chiapas (Through the Steps of an Inconclusive War: 12 Years of Militarization in Chiapas), the fruit of years of close work with Chiapas indigenous communities. Hidalgo claims that the federal government, which was ostensibly taken unawares by the 1994 revolt, knew of the existence of the Zapatistas at least since 1988, when an army patrol discovered a guerilla training camp (with “shell casings and shot-up trees”) near Taniperlas, in what is now the Zapatista Autonomous Municipality of Ricardo Flores Magon, in Las Cañadas region. There has been widespread suspicion that the Mexican government kept quiet on the growing threat of instability in the south of the country in order to get NAFTA passed.
As for the Zapatistas’ current stance, Hidalgo agrees that the current shift to a civil and political strategy is significant. “This is not to say that they don’t have arms and will not defend themselves. For the EZLN, arms are a mechanism of self-defense, but the logic of the insurgent group is to impact the political life of the country, and try to change it,” he said. (APRO, March 20)
All sources from the Chiapas95 archive.
See our last post on Mexico and the Zapatista tour.