From the Maya Train to sympathizers “with a foreign appearance,” Sedena’s constant siege against the Zapatistas

Members of the EZLN during the Inaugural act of the 2nd International Gathering of Women Who Struggle. Photo: Isabel Mateos (AP)

Leaked emails from Sedena (Mexico’s Secretary of National Defense) Have allowed us to know that the EZLN is one of the most besieged by military intelligence due to its posture of rejecting the megaprojects and government programs.

By: Jacobo García


Of all the files produced by the Mexican Army (Sedena) from surveillance of potential enemies, including drug cartels, feminist groups, parents of children with cancer or defenders of the land, the surveillance of the Zapatistas of the EZLN is the closest and most detailed.

The information obtained from the massive email leak permits knowing that the Army is obsessed with the bases of the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) in Chiapas. The follow-up includes detailed fact sheets that include details of events, description of leaders and photographs of supporters. There is also a diagnosis about the future of the group that has allowed us to see the Army’s fixation with an indigenous movement that never fired a shot, but declared war on the State in 1994.

Up to nine different documents give an account of the operation of the caracoles, the movements of Subcomandante Galeano -formerly known as Marcos- or the political activities of María de Jesús Patricio Martínez, Marichuy, presidential candidate in the 2018 elections. Much of the military concern about the Indians has to do with their stance on some of the mega-projects promoted by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. In the document entitled “Position of the EZLN on the construction of the Maya Train”, in January 2020, the investigation that Sedena carried out in the regions with the Zapatista presence trying to find out the way in which the insurgents acted against these works is revealed.

Map of the planned route of the Maya Train, with the section that crosses through Chiapas in red, the same color with which they indicate the territory in which the Zapatista caracoles are located.

According to conclusions that the soldiers draw from envoys to the event, the assertions of Subcomandante Galeano -identified as Rafael Sebastián Guillen Vicente- that the movement is growing, are false. The lack of economic resources has reduced the carrying of support bases, so that the EZLN will act only by hammering in a national and international public opinion. “When it doesn’t have the power to convene to counteract the projects, only the discourse will be limited and to attack the federal government in a media way for the implementation of these projects, advised by human rights bodies and international observers,” the report said.

The movement’s rejection of said projects is based on the idea that the Government and the private companies will extract natural resources from the territory, including water, wood and minerals, and therefore the ecosystem will be affected. However, according to Sedena, the movement has lost adherents thanks to putting social programs into effect, such as “Sembrando vida,” that have not been to the liking of the commanders, or by the forced contribution of 200 pesos per month per adult, as well as by the monthly family contribution of 10% of the sale of agricultural products.

In another PowerPoint from January of this year, with the motive of the celebrations for the 26th anniversary of the 1994 Uprising, a document was prepared in which leaders, municipalities and activities are described. In one of these documents titled “Activities carried out by militants of the EZLN,” it points out: “Currently, Caracol 2 in Oventic, San Andrés Larrainzar, Chiapas, is the one that represents major relevance, due to the events that they have held and indoctrination activities, which Rafael Sebastián Guillen Vicente (Subcomandante Marcos) attends regularly.

Slide featuring “activists and sympathizers” of the EZLN, including former independent presidential candidate María de Jesús Patricio Martínez “Marichuy” and singer Mon Laferte.

In another document, a Zapatista festival is described as follows: “Date and place: Dec. 26-29. 2019. Caracol IV, Autonomous Municipality 17 de November 17 (Altamirano, Chis.). Activity: “Second International Meeting of Women who Struggle.” They carried out cultural activities (theater, dance, poetry and regional dances). Number of participants: Approx. 3,140 people (760 Zapatista support bases, 800 students, 800 nationals and 780 people of foreign appearance from 43 countries), headed by Antonio Hernández Cruz, aka “Moisés,” current leader of the EZLN and Rafael Sebastián Guillen Vicente, aka “Galeano,” political, moral and intellectual figure of said group. Remarks: Concluded without incident, the file prepared by the military indicates.

The entire document consulted is headed by the word “confidential,” summarizes and outlines the leaders and the location of the autonomous municipalities. It is accompanied± by photographs taken in a hidden way of “Marichuy” and a group of sympathizers “of foreign appearance” or the appearance of Mon Laferte visiting the Zapatista regions. The report includes a map that delimits the area controlled by the EZLN, which includes the municipalities of Las Margaritas, Altamirano, Amatenango, Chilón, Motozintla, San Cristóbal de las Casas, Ocosingo, Palenque and San Andrés Larraínzar, in Chiapas.

Beyond the mountains of Chiapas, in another document found by this newspaper, a military chief of Querétaro Military Camp No.16 sends his superiors a series of files with the profile of the Zapatista leaders in Querétaro. In it, next to the name of the spy, the public or private activities carried out are summarized. In some cases, these cards are limited to writing: “Perform activities of your profession: dentist.”

Originally Published in Spanish by El País, Saturday, October 8, 2022, and Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee

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