Break the Siege, Fight for Life

For a new internationalism of the oppressed.

By Arturo Anguiano, published by Camino al andar

Painting by Beatriz Aurora

The rebels of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) have once again broken through the siege, by setting off on a trip around the world in the struggle against neoliberal capitalism and for the defense of life.

It’s easy to say, but for more than 27 years the rebel communities of Chiapas have been attacked and besieged by the repressive legal and illegal forces of  different governments, regardless of their colors or party affiliation. It happened  under the government of  Carlos Salinas de Gortari (1988-1994) who even bombed communities. It happened under Ernesto Zedillo (1994-2000) who, driven by his pathological racism and his lack of authority, left in limbo the San Andrés Accords that had been spurred on by  pressure from an outraged and alert society. Instead, he ordered massive military operations that were carried out by paramilitary forces organized by the Army,  leading to a bloody low-intensity war. And he implemented welfare policies aimed at tearing apart the fabric of the communities. Vicente Fox (2000-2006) tried to recover the agreements signed by the representatives of the State and the Zapatista command, but  –like everything he did– in the end it was only a media masquerade that endorsed racism and  the exclusion of indigenous peoples, condemning them to vegetate as vulnerable populations destined for extinction. Felipe Calderón (2006-2012) and Enrique Peña Nieto (2012-2018) spread war throughout the country, while they continued to corner, attack and seek to divide the Zapatista communities, with all imaginable means and using an array of state political forces. (PRI, PAN, Greens, PRD).

Despite his demagoguery and allusions to leftist traditions, Andrés Manuel López Obrador (2018-2024?), donning the guise of the old neo-indigenous PRI, reinforced the siege against the EZLN by creating  more military forces and new welfare programs (this time of a charitable nature), supported by reconstituted paramilitary groups. To which he adds a wall of lies and slander against the Zapatistas and those who struggle to protect life that is threatened – now more than ever – by the neocolonial megaprojects with which the President seeks to ingratiate himself with the great capitals that dominate the planet.

But the entire force of the State – as the rulers like to boast – has not been able to silence or annul the Zapatista rebels, who since December 1994, after their brilliant appearance on January 1 of that year, broke the siege and expanded their territory with the creation of the autonomous municipalities, under the influence of the Popocatepetl eruption. Likewise the initiatives that, time and again, going against the current, led them to discover and travel throughout Mexico (national consultations, travels by  support base commissions, the Color of the Earth March, the Other Campaign, the 13 Baktun of 2012 , the proposal for the indigenous presidential candidacy with María de Jesús Patricio, Marichuy, as spokesperson for the CNI-CIG). Police-military, political-social, media sieges (I neither see you nor hear you) and even disgraceful walls coming from a cacique president [*See note below[, are completely useless before peoples who are determined to fight and build alternatives for collective life through self-government and self-management. For this reason,  in August 2019, surrounded and besieged in a thousand ways, the EZLN announced a new breaking of the siege, by expanding its already vast territory with the addition of new autonomous municipalities and  Caracoles, with their Good Government Juntas, now adding up to 16.  

Breaking the siege with a thunderous silence, making the invisible visible in a resounding way, not giving in, persisting in the rebellious folly of building alternatives on land mined by the irrationality of a capitalism considered fatal and insurmountable, finally showing that the nobodies, the excluded and the oppressed, the outcasts, the condemned of the Earth, are those who truly want and can fight an irreparable social order that is extremely unequal and pernicious for all humanity. Such are, in sum, the skills, traits and strategies that guide the Zapatistas in their already long resistance against death, and in their claim to contribute to linking the struggles for life, (that is, for equality, freedom, justice, self-government and self-management) with the defense of the planet endangered by a capitalism that has spread everywhere, and that threatens, with its wars and unbridled competition for profits,  a planet that becomes degraded, devastated and uninhabitable.

By embarking on the sea crossing, 500 years after the alleged Spanish conquest and the destruction of Mexico-Tenochtitlan, the EZLN once again surprised everyone by breaking out of the siege. Instead of taking refuge in their territory to concentrate on progressing in the construction of their autonomy, their new life and their non-hierarchical egalitarian social relations, the Zapatistas update the perspective of their struggle: “the territory of our actions is now clearly defined: the planet called ‘Earth’, located in the so-called Solar System” ( They know that they have not built an island of resistance capable of surviving in solitude in the middle of a raging capitalist ocean. “The survival of humanity depends on the destruction of capitalism,” because capitalism is precisely what destroys nature—causing catastrophe after catastrophe—and generates pandemics that isolate, exclude and abandon, undermining human existence. “Destruction in any corner of the world has repercussions on the entire planet.” ( That is why each one must fight in their field, wherever they are, and in their way, according to their conditions and traditions.

That is the meaning of the new adventure of the EZLN, accompanied by the National Indigenous Congress — Indigenous Government Council (CNI-CIG), to resume exchanges not only of suffering, but above all of experiences, creativity and imagination, making use of of critical thinking, of the multiple and inexhaustible sensitivities, so different, of very different peoples, of societies that do not stop resisting despite the advances of the right, of the renegades of the left and of loneliness in the face of pandemics. We must “take back the streets to fight,” sharing feelings from the outset, but also articulating actions, social practices that organize collective resistance, but that also forge collective alternatives for the defense of life, that is, of the Planet, that is, the destruction of a aberrant capitalism whose modernity can return us to the Stone Age (

The Zapatista landing in Vigo, Spain, scheduled for mid-June, the invasion of the other Europe (the one that resists and fights), seeks the revenge of the original peoples that is none other than to find their equals, to spread fraternal solidarity to those who resist every war, every conquest, every depredation that an archaic and decaying social order has not ceased to propagate as an inevitable condition of its development and persistence. It is the search to remake the internationalism of the oppressed in the face of the globalization of capital. To remake the world for everyone from below. It is a longing for the future, a commitment to memories of tomorrow, to build collectively on very different worlds that can only continue to be as long as they build a new one, a world where many worlds fit.

Tlalpan, Mexico City, May 10, 2021.


Published originally in Spanish by Camino al andar on May 13, 2021; available at

Translated from Spanish by the Chiapas Support Committee.

  • NOTE Cacique: “A person who exercises a lot of power in the political or administrative affairs of a town or region…”

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