Mexico: Zapatistas reemerge to denounce "drug war"
Mexican president Felipe Calderón Hinojosa's militarization of the struggle against drug trafficking is "a war from above" largely for the benefit of US interests, according to a letter published on Feb. 14 and written by Subcommander Marcos, the spokesperson of the rebel Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN), which is based in the southeastern state of Chiapas.
The war, which Calderón launched when he assumed the presidency in December 2006, "grants [the US] profits, territory, and political and military control without the uncomfortable body bags and the crippled people that arrived, before, from Vietnam and now from Iraq and Afghanistan," Marcos wrote in the letter, which is addressed to the Mexican philosopher Luis Villoro Toranzo. "The results of this war won't only be thousands of dead… and juicy economic winnings. Also, and above all, it will result in a nation destroyed, depopulated, and irreversibly broken."
Except for a communiqué after the death on Jan. 24 of former Chiapas bishop Samuel Ruiz García, this letter was said to be the first public statement since 2009 by the once-prolific Marcos. The EZLN, which hasn't used arms since a brief insurrection in January 1994, has focused recently on developing the 20 communities in its own autonomous region. Gerardo González, a professor at the College of the Southern Border who studies the Zapatista movement, told the French wire service AFP that Marcos' reappearance "can be explained by his reading of a favorable conjuncture with social movements like what is happening in Egypt, in the Arab countries, in Italy, and in other countries." (AFP, Feb. 15, via Terra, Peru; English translation of Marcos' letter from My Word Is My Weapon blog, Feb. 14)
The US House of Representatives voted 277 to 149 on Feb. 18 for an amendment that blocks a proposal by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to require some 8,500 gun dealers near the US-Mexico border to report sales within five consecutive business days of two or more semi-automatic rifles greater than .22 caliber with detachable magazines. The proposal was intended to help the ATF catch people running semi-automatic rifles to Mexico, where they are used by drug gangs.
The amendment, which was added to a spending bill funding the US government through September, had strong bipartisan support; it was introduced by Rep. Dan Boren (D-Ok) and was backed by the National Rifle Association (NRA). However, it needs to pass the Senate and be signed by US president Barack Obama to become official. Mexico's ambassador to the US, Arturo Sarukhán, called the vote "unfortunate." Andrew Selee, director of the Woodrow Wilson Center's Mexico Institute, said the amendment was "very bad news for everyone who is worried about arms trafficking to Mexico." (La Jornada, Mexico, Feb. 20, from Notimex; Washington Post, Feb. 20)
The vote follows the WikiLeaks group's recent release of US diplomatic cables indicating that some of the heavy weapons used by Mexican drug gangs were originally supplied to armies in the region by the US military.
From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Feb. 20.