Zapatistas announce “new political initiative”

After much speculation following their announcement of a “red alert” last week, on June 26 the Zapatista rebels in Mexico’s southern state of Chiapas issued a communique announcing that their “consulta,” or consultation with their base communities, was complete, and stating that they would soon release a new statement outlining a “new national and international political initiative.” The new statement would be called the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Selva, after their jungle stronghold. The rebels, known officially as the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN), have issued such “declarations” at various critical junctures since their 1994 rebellion. (June 26 statement online at the University of Texas Chiapas95 archive.)

The Sixth Declaration is apparently going to be quite lengthy. The first of an undetermined number of installments was issued on the 29th, ending “To be continued” and signed by the Indigenous Revolutionary Clandestine Committee, the EZLN’s General Command, rather than the usual spokesman Subcommander Marcos. The first installment largely recapitulated the 11 years of the EZLN’s struggle, and the government’s betrayal of its committment to approve constitutional changes recognizing the territorial autonomy of Mexico’s indigenous peoples as the rebels’ primary condition for peace. It acknowledged that the struggle has arrived at something of a stalemate. As at several junctures in the past, the rebels called for an alliance between the marginalized indigenous people of Chiapas and Mexico’s peasants and workers generally. Reads the last paragraph:

To our way of thinking, and what we see in our heart, we have reached a point where we cannot go any further, and, in addition, it is possible that we could lose everything we have if we remain as we are and do nothing more in order to move forward. The hour has come to take a risk once again and to take a step which is dangerous but which is worthwhile. Because, perhaps united with other social sectors who suffer from the same wants as we do, it will be possible to achieve what we need and what we deserve. A new step forward in the indigenous struggle is only possible if the indigenous join together with workers, campesinos, students, teachers, employees…the workers of the city and the countryside.

(Online in English at the website of the tireless Zapatista translator Irlandesa)

Part II, released on the 30th, also ends “To be continued” and is an exegesis on Mexico’s assigned place in the contemporary globalized capitalist system. It called for a “globalization of rebellion” to counter “neoliberal globalization.” (Online at the FZLN website.)

President Vicente Fox reacted that he “enthusiastically welcomes” the Zapatistas’ new direction (even though that new direction is still less than clear) and said he personally extends an invitation to “Señor Marcos so that together we can build the phase of integration into political life.” He said he is “at the service of” the EZLN’s leadership. (AP, June 29)

A presidential spokesman, Ruben Aguilar, said there would be “no legal impediment” to the Zapatistas entering Mexico’s political system. But he also said that 400 new troops had been dispatched to Rancho Nuevo, the central military base of the Chiapas Highlands, while insisting it was only for routine exercizes. (AP, Jue 28)

A report by the Spanish news service EFE put the number of new troops being mobilized to Rancho Nuevo at 1,500. (EFE, June 29)

Meanwhile, a group of Chiapas legislators announced that they were seeking to add three new indigenous groups to those officially recognized by the state government, allowing their languages to be used in matters of municipal administration. The three groups are the Jacalteca, Kanjobales and Mochó, mostly found in Amatenango, Comalapa and Trinitaria municipalities in the zone along the Guatemalan border. Together, the three groups number about 6,300. At present, Chiapas officially recognizes only nine of the 12 indigenous groups in the state, the legislators said.

In 2001, after years of fitful talks with the Zapatistas, Mexico’s federal government approved constitutional changes recognizing the cultural autonomy of the country’s indigenous peoples. However, these changes were rejected by the Zapatistas, who said that all measures for actual territorial autonomy (e.g. control over natural resources) had been gutted from the constitutional package. The Chiapas legislators also called for re-opening talks on broadening the national constitutional reform. (Proceso, June 28)

See our last post on Chiapas.