History and Time Prove EZLN Right
By: Jaime Martínez Veloz
Para leer en español: http://www.jornada.unam.mx/2011/11/04/opinion/024a1pol
On February 16, 1996, the federal government and the EZLN signed the agreement on matters of indigenous rights and culture. It was the first theme on the agreed-upon agenda between the Zapatista delegation and its government counterpart. Arriving at that moment was the result of multiple collective and individual efforts. Many provocations had to be dodged, to be able to achieve a first agreement that permitted sheltering a hope for changes in our country.
After a few weeks, the expectations were radically modified: the attitude of ex president Zedillo changed, his conduct expressed irritation and what was agreed upon by his government’s delegation was not known publicly, while what was that agreed to in San Andrés was disqualified through a media offensive seldom seen. With a campaign of lies and fraudulent interpretations of the San Andrés Accords, he accused the EZLN and the Cocopa of wanting to create a “State within the State.”
In the 2000 [presidential] Campaign, Vicente Fox promised to resolve the conflict with the Zapatistas in 15 minutes and to send to the Congress of the Union the initiative in matters of indigenous rights and culture, which the Cocopa had formulated, with support in the San Andrés Accords. Nevertheless, the same arguments managed by Zedillo were imposed and terminated por denaturizing that agreed on between the federal government and the EZLN. The Fox government’s action, of sending the initiative to the Senate of the Republic, merely fulfilled his campaign propaganda.
One of the agreements in San Andrés, included the legislative initiative, points out that the “indigenous peoples of Mexico will have the right to the use and enjoyment of the natural resources of their lands and territories, except for those that are the dominion of the nation.” This paragraph, which does not contain any risk to the country and that vindicates the just longings of indigenous Mexicans, was used by the official propaganda of the Fox and Zedillo governments to accuse the Zapatistas of attempting to Balkanize the country.
What happened in Mexico in the 15 years previous to the San Andrés Accords permits us to see where the causes of irritation were for the governments of Vicente Fox and Ernesto Zedillo. Upon sending the Indigenous Law initiative to the Congress of the Union, seeking the mere media effect, the Fox government secretly granted permits to the US oil company Halliburton –property of then Vice President of the United States, Dick Cheney– to perforate wells in the Mexican Southeast, especially in Chiapas and Tabasco.
While the governmental propaganda of Ernesto Zedillo and Vicente Fox never tired of accusing the EZLN of wanting to appropriate the resources that belong to the nation, they delivered mining concessions to both Mexican corporations and foreign ones, whose business model favors their owners, not the country; the only tax that mining companies pay to Mexico is the ridiculous amount of five pesos per hectare (about a penny per acre). No tax exists that burdens the profits of those corporations. Mexico is a paradise for these companies, whose mines are located on lands of indigenous and ejidal (collective) communities. As a sample we can mention the mine of gold, copper and silver del National Agrarian Flatland Ejido of Mexicali, with proven reserves of almost 300 tons of metals. The owner of that concession pays the ejido owners 11, 000 pesos ($1,100.00 dollars) a year for rent. Even so, the power of attorney has the impudence to assert that the ejido owners “are not the owners of anything,” that the nation is the owner, but omits saying that the benefits and profits of that natural resource are not for the nation, but for the corporation that he represents.
Starting with the signing of the San Andrés Accords, officials from the areas of finance, energy and communications from the three previous governments have constituted the principal line of attack against them. Curiously, said officials now appear as members of the administrative councils of the energy and mining transnationals. Luis Téllez Kuenzler, former Energy Secretary and former Secretary of Communications and Transportation (SCT); Carlos Ruiz Sacristán, another former SCT Secretary; Gilberto Hershberger Reyes, former assistant secretary for Ordering of Rural Property in the Agrarian Reform Ministry, and Antonio Lozano Gracia, the former Attorney General of the Republic that requested the expedition of arrest warrants against the Zapatista leadership, are, among others, some of the former officials that are now members of the executive boards or the legal office of transnationals, those who have benefitted many of them (the transnationals) during their time in the public administration positions that they have occupied.
Vicente Fox’s statement comparing the EZLN’s struggle with drug trafficking sounds ridiculous within this context and has an air of provocation. That comparison offends indigenous peoples’ centuries-long struggles and demonstrates that he did not have a genuine interest in resolving an ancestral problem of deep Mexico. Placing subcomandante Marcos as “a criminal” is an absurdity from the ex president that at the start of his term of office, in his clumsy and awkward way, declared that the Sup was his “friend.” With friends like that who needs enemies. Maybe because of that, the Zapatistas have been suspicious of relationships with government personnel, because one never knows when they are going to bite you.
One of the few opportunities that the Republic has of walking through less thorny paths is to look to the best of our past and our recent history. For that the Accords of San Andrés Larráinzar constitute one of the most important reference points for reconstructing a large part of the social fabric, now torn by poverty and insecurity.
Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada
Saturday, November 4, 2011
Translation: Chiapas Support Committee