The Mexican state versus the EZLN

San Andrés Larráinzar, Chiapas in 1995.

By: Magdalena Gómez

Twenty-six years after the public presence of the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) exercising its right to rebellion, it is necessary to remember some keys to the trajectory that has marked the very prolonged suspension of a dialogue that should have concluded with the signing of peace and compliance with the agreements made in the accords.

As we know, the course of this process was the result of the decision to sabotage it by different governments, with modalities that have even led to the application of violent forms. Without a doubt, former President Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de León, who in the well-known betrayal of February 9, 1995 announced the war strategy against the EZLN that we all know, stands out in this.

To contain the crisis caused, the Mexican Congress approved the Law for Dialogue, Conciliation and Dignified Peace in Chiapas, which emphasized that the EZLN’s causes were and are just, and included a structure for dialogue that involves not only the Executive Power, but also the Legislative. In that long history, it should be noted that the EZLN has respected the cease-fire decreed at the presidential level on January 12, 1994 and accepted by this political force, proof of this is the way the Zapatista communities adopted the accords while concentrating on the organization of Juntas de Buen Gobierno and Caracoles, an unprecedented autonomous experience inside and outside the country.

Today it seems unquestionable that the only radical opposition to the government of the so-called Fourth Transformation is precisely the EZLN. The reaction of the President of the Republic to the position the EZLN expressed on January 1 is marked by a language with a personal tinge, as an offended person, rather than the position of a head of state. For the Zapatistas and the National Indigenous Congress it seems difficult to ignore that in 1994 former President Carlos Salinas de Gortari was about to celebrate the entry into operation of the North American Free Trade Agreement and just these days the signing of the T-MEC with the same countries and with related dispositions with a neoliberal trajectory is around the corner.

Even more, the Salinas government opened the surge of counter-reforms which became constitutional article 27 and Enrique Peña Nieto crowned them with so-called structural reforms. This scaffolding is in effect and today no intentions are announced to promote its abrogation. It is seeking to assume policies that moderate its effects, in some cases.

In this very generic context, the current government is committed to promoting megaprojects, such as the Mayan Train, the Transistmic Corridor and the Morelos Integral Project, with all the flow of simulated consultations.

Transnational capital is the backdrop of these megaprojects. This is strongly opposed by the Zapatistas and the National Indigenous Congress. In response, the President of the Republic disqualifies them, especially the leadership of the EZLN, by pointing out that it is an ideological opposition and, when asked about the possibility of a dialogue, with some disagreement, he said: “Yes, let the National Institute of Indigenous Peoples address it”. He said this despite a current law, such as the one that dates from 1995 and a two-chamber commission that [legislative] period after period is integrated. [1]

Of course, since the other betrayal of 2001, the EZLN has not even remotely raised the resumption of the so-called dialogue, but the head of state may well even think of a serious strategy that goes beyond rancor facing his anti-capitalist opponents, or unofficial emissaries, such as Father Alejandro Solalinde or symbolic visits to the emblematic community of Guadalupe Tepeyac.

Vicente Fox failed in his offer that in 15 minutes he would resolve the Zapatista conflict and subordinated himself to the indigenous counter-reform that violated the San Andres agreements.

Felipe Calderón and Enrique Peña Nieto kept quiet.

Today it is not enough to take refuge in the 30 million votes and in the scholarships that thousands of indigenous people will receive individually. Certainly 40 years ago the President of the Republic was an exemplary official of indigenist policies. But the insistence that communities not be stripped of their lands requires proof of the facts. The communities that will be affected are defining their legal and political forms of resistance and Zapatismo accompanies at any cost this struggle that, with good reason they define, is against the continuity of the neoliberal project.

On February 9, 1995, the EZLN denied then-president Ernesto Zedillo in a statement:

“For years we live threatened by the great lords and their private armies. Tired of this we rise in arms to demand what is just for any human being anywhere in the world: freedom, democracy and justice. The dialogue that the bad government intended was having the EZLN on its knees. He is wrong, since January 1, 1994 we live standing up. On foot we will talk or on foot we will fight, on foot we will live or on foot we will die”.

The ongoing dignity!

[1] This is a reference to the Commission of Concordance and Pacification (Cocopa), a congressional commission composed of legislators from all the political parties in the National Congress. It’s purpose is to facilitate peace in Chiapas.


Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee





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