By: Magdalena Gómez
January 1, 2019 will be the 25 anniversary of the public emergence of the Zapatista National Liberation Army (Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional, EZLN). The challenge to the Mexican State, on the day the North American Free Trade Agreement begins formal operations, permeated our roots and mobilized the indigenous peoples of our country as never before, placing their agenda on the nation’s agenda. It also gave hope and meaning to many activists and movements in the world that were looking for how to orient the compass of the Left in neoliberal times.
While it’s impossible to reconstruct the EZLN’s trajectory and contribution in a few lines, suffice it to say that a first important step was the massive social demand for a ceasefire that it achieved from Salinas de Gortari on January 12, 1994, the unilateral ceasefire and the Zapatista respect for said decision. That factor being important, however, it cannot be ignored that the State has waged war against Zapatismo by many means, and not exactly peaceful.
A key moment was the February 9, 1995 betrayal, when then President of the Republic, Ernesto Zedillo, converted into the Public Prosecutor, broadcast on national television the alleged identities of the Zapatista leadership and the issuance of arrest warrants, while the Army was advancing in Chiapas against the territory its bases occupied. The stigma of Esteban Moctezuma derives from this. As the then Secretary of the Interior (secretario de Gobernación), he was received in Chiapas days before in a supposed and discrete dialogue plan.
The crisis unleashed on February 9 derived into the passage of the Law for Dialogue, Negotiation and Dignified Peace in Chiapas, which says in its first article: “This law has as an objective establishing the legal bases that will promote dialogue and conciliation for reaching, through an agreement of concordance and pacification, the just, dignified and lasting solution to the armed conflict initiated on January 1, 1994 in the state of Chiapas. For purposes of this law, the EZLN will be understood as the group of persons that are identified as an organization of Mexican citizens, mostly indigenous, who disagreed for various reasons and became involved in the conflict referred to in the preceding paragraph.”
Starting from that context, the route was defined for the dialogue, whose first negotiating table produced the San Andrés Accords on indigenous rights and culture, signed on February 16, 1996 and after a series of crises, now into the Fox presidency and with the Zapatista expression of conditions for sitting down again with the government, the indigenous counter-reform was promulgated in 2001 with which the EZLN considered that the State kicked over the board and ruined the possibility of resuming the dialogue that had been suspended since September 1996.
From 2001 to date, Zapatismo has constructed its autonomy in Chiapas, developing different areas of work through autonomous government bodies, as well as its own health and education systems through collective work, with everyone’s participation, women, men, young people and children. We’re talking about Good Government Juntas (Boards), an experience emblematic beyond national borders that they systematized and shared in the Escuelita Zapatista. They have also organized different seminars about the capitalist hydra, as well as the CompArtes and the ConSciencias, among others.
The most recent political experience was the accompaniment of the National Indigenous Congress (Congreso Nacional Indígena, CNI) in the decision to name an Indigenous Governing Council (Consejo Indígena de Gobierno, CIG) with men and women representatives from each one of the peoples, tribes and nations that comprise it, and this council proposes to govern this country. And it will have as its spokesperson an indigenous woman from the CNI, in other words, she will have indigenous blood and know her culture, and she would be an independent candidate to the Presidency of Mexico.
We know the result of this experience, faced with the State’s rules: Marichuy did not reach the required number of signatures, however her tour achieved the articulation of networks that are maintained around the anticapitalist option. They also gave an account of the deepening deterioration in the country and of the virtual war against the peoples promoted from the State. The EZLN has reiterated the statement about the transmutation of the rulers in the historical figure of the overseers: They are good defenders of the interests of their bosses to plunder the natural riches of our country and the world such as land, forests, mountains, water, rivers, lakes, lagoons, air and the mines that are guarded in the bosom of our Mother Earth, because the boss considers everything a commodity and thus they want to destroy us completely. The bosses are not present for the official part, not in the new government or its projects, both elements to suppose a change of direction in that trajectory that threatens the life of the peoples.
We can glimpse the Zapatista message with these elements this coming January 1.
Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada
Saturday, December 22, 2018
Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee