Remembering 28 Years of the EZLN

EZLN: 28 Years of Persistence For An Ideal

Jaime Martínez Veloz

 On November 17, 1983, 28 years ago, a small nucleus of men and women arrived in the heart of the Lacandón Jungle, bringing with them an accumulation of dreams and ideals for transforming Mexico into a just and democratic country. With patience, intelligence and method they linked with the communities and organizations that were living in different regions of Chiapas, as well as with the struggles that for years had fought with indigenous peoples against centuries-old oppression and humiliation. For a resident of Mexico’s urban zones, it is not easy to adapt to jungle conditions, but when higher proposals and firm convictions exist, they tolerate those conditions until achieving the ideals that motivate them.

In a State crossed by social, political and religious contradictions, the work of the original nucleus that impelled the formation and organization of the Zapatista National Liberation Army had to process natural differences and different conceptions around how to conduct the struggle against injustice and oblivion of which the indigenous communities of Mexico have been the object. A lot of work had to be carried out to achieve that on January 1, 1994, Mexico and the world turned over to look at Chiapas and had to recognize that the issue of the relationship of the Mexican State with its original peoples is a pending issue that has been outside of the national agenda.

The impact of the armed Zapatista Uprising mobilized Mexican society to oblige the State to dialogue with the insurgents to resolve the causes that required indigenous Chiapanecos to take up arms as the ultimate means to achieve the resolution of their centuries-old demands and their cries for justice.

The transcendence of the insurgent actions motivated the then PRI candidate, Luis Donaldo Colosio, to hold a more committed definition than any leader of that party had held, when in his March 6, 1994 speech in front of the Monument to the Revolution, he proposed: “We PRI members must reflect before Chiapas. As a part of stability and social justice it shames us to notice that we were not sensitive to the great complaints from our communities; that we were not at their side in their aspirations; that we were not at the height of the commitment that they hope for from us. It is the hour of doing justice to our indigenous peoples, of overcoming their backlogs and lacks; of respecting their dignity. It is the hour of celebrating a new pact by the Mexican State with the indigenous communities.”

After his assassination, this definition was filed in the forgotten box.

During the term of President Ernesto Zedillo, an intense negotiating process between the federal government and the EZLN was produced, where the National Mediation Commission (Conai, its Spanish acronym) played a relevant role. Bishop don Samuel Ruiz headed the Conai. The Congress of the Union, by conduct of the Cocopa had a relevant role; the figures of Heberto Castillo and Luis H. Álvarez were the principal support.

After an arduous negotiating process, the federal government and the EZLN addressed the first theme from the agenda agreed to by the parties, the theme of “Indigenous Rights and Culture,” and signed what today are known as the Accords of San Andrés Larráinzar, which were not recognized by ex President Zedillo, brandishing lies and false statements that hid the underground strategy that the federal government was impelling, for delivering assets, territory and sovereignty. In this way, seaports, airports, mining concessions, banks, railroads, satellites, energy production, oil exploration and the natural gas business were delivered to transnationals, some of which contracted the former president’s services and several of his closest collaborators. The EZLN was not only betrayed by the Mexican State, it was also persecuted, stigmatized and on several occasions has suffered the attempt at larger actions for the purpose of dealing a blow that could annihilate it or, at least, reduce it to a minimum.

Because of all that, the Zapatistas decided to carry out a strategy that would permit them to consolidate their communitarian structures, to establish mechanisms to resolve their issues and eventual internal differences, as well as with other organizations close to their communities. In this way, in 2003 the good government juntas were born, which have permitted them to strengthen their internal work and, at the same time, bring to a head important tasks in the areas of salud, education, food production and development of agricultural projects, despite their modest resources.

The enormous economic spill that the Federation has invested in Chiapas after the armed insurrection has been made public, where, paradoxically, those who exposed their life live in the same communities with the same lacks as in times previous to the uprising. Thanks to the EZLN, Chiapas now has an infrastructure that it did not have before January 1, 1994. Nevertheless, despite the needs of each community the ideal of one day achieving peace with justice and dignity continues alive that keeps them at the foot of the struggle, resisting in the most adverse conditions, interweaving dreams and longings, guided by the Zapatista ideal in effect that has kept them united for 28 years.

An affectionate hug to all the Zapatistas on this anniversary of their insurgent formation, as much to the support bases as to the general command, with the wish that some day their ideals of justice and liberty may take shape in the Mexican Constitution and are converted into a reality.


Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Friday, November 18, 2011

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