The Other in all Mexico has kept doing numerous activities

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					                                     Abajo y a la Izquierda
                             Political Evolution of Neozapatismo

Carlos Pñeyro Nelson*

The Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) is going to be 27 years old, 15 of

them public. Since their upraise, in January of 1994, in the Mexican southeast state

of Chiapas, their struggle has tried to get better living conditions for their

supporters, as well as the rest of the indigenous communities in the country.

However, they’ve always had a bigger objective: a profound change in Mexico and

in the world. Such struggle has had different stages and tactics, starting with an

armed rebellion, and suspending any negotiation with different government

administrations, building political and social fronts in Mexico and around the, to

suspending any negotiation with the Mexican State and calling to develop an

anticapitalist movement. Nevertheless, since the beginning of their movement

they’ve always had as central issue the construction and improvement of their

autonomic process.

The actual phase of neozapatismo has been based in three characteristics: 1)

complete separation from all institutional actors, including the Partido de la

Revolución Democrática (PRD), the biggest center-left party in Mexico, it’s former

2006 presidential candidate, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, and any negotiation

with any government; 2) a national and international appeal to organized a

    Instituto de Investigaciones Dr. José María Luis Mora, Mexico City

worldwide anticapitalist movement and; 3) the strengthening and amplification of

their autonomous development.

This paper will summarize the history of neozapatismo, showing the different

institutional paths that the rebels took to resolve their problems, the respond they

got from the government. In addition, this paper highlights some of the most

important attempts made to develop different alliances in order to change the

Mexican political System, and their democratic proposal of organization, their

autonomic regime. The aim is to understand why the EZLN have change their

discourse and strategy throughout their existence, why their current denial to

interact with the Mexican political-institutionalized structure, and why their changes

have been determined, until a certain point, by the lack of real and profound

institutional answers to their demands, which have been supported in all these

years by a large number of indigenous in Mexico and in the world, as well as non


      EZLN background

     Chiapas is currently a state with a lot of biodiversity and natural resources (oil

and sweet water, different types of plants and animals, as well as minerals); more

than 50% of all hydroelectricity in Mexico is produce in the state. At the same time,

is one of the poorest parts of Mexico, being one of the three states with the lowest

schooling and health care percentages. Additionally, it has the lowest amount of

electrified homes, running water and sewage system; the 2005 national-census

has ranked it as the second poorest in all the country.1}Around 26% of the total

population is part of an ethnic group (around 889,000 of a 4,293 453 total

population are indigenous), being the Tzeltal, Tzotzil, Chol, and Zoque tribes the

most numerous. The indigenous have been the most marginalized from all state

benefits, making this population the poorest in Chiapas.

      For a lot of the indigenous, Catholicism has been a way to understand and

introduce them self to the hegemonic state and social visions, dominated by the

white and mestizo’s2. For many years the indoctrination was based in the ‘official’

reading of the Bible. Nevertheless, with the arrival of Monsignor Samuel Ruíz in

1960, to the San Cristóbal Diocese in Chiapas, the Catholic Church position would

change radically in the state, due to the new Bishop’s theological perspective: the

Preferential Options for the Poor, and the Liberation Theology. That way

        […] the catechists were no longer trained to simply take the Word of God and
      deliver it to their communities. Instead, they were to incarnate within their
      cultural traditions and practical daily lives. […] The emphasis shifted from
      instruction to reflection. […] The role of the catechist was to open a reflection
      and collect all the different opinions. […] Catechists were no longer restricted
      to religious matters and instead promoted discussion of economic an political
      issues in people´s daily lives. […] This method also helped revive indigenous
      practices of decision making. Reflection and discussion continued until an
      agreement was made that would be binding to the whole community […]3

 INEGI,       “Conteo   de     Población    y   vivienda   2005.    Consulta     de     resultados”¡?=&c=10419&pred=1
  Mestizo is the name given to the mixture between the Spaniards and the indigenous people in
Mexico. After the Mexican Revolution, in 1920, this concept was used to justify the ‘new’ mexican
nation emerging from the revolutionary process. The idea was to create a cultural identity among
Mexicans. Thus, indigenous people who acknowledged and embraced their culture where seen as
‘primitive,’ slowing Mexico’s modernity. Consuelo Sánchez, Los pueblos indígenas: del indigenismo
a la autonomía. México, Siglo XXI, 1999, Emiko Saldívar Tanaka, Everyday practices of
indigenismo: an ethnography of México’s Instituto Nacional Indigenista. Submitted to the Graduate
Faculty of Political and Social Science of the New School University in partial fulfillment of the
requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, 2002, p.46. UMI Number 3062386. Obtain
  Neil Harvey, The Chiapas Rebellion. The Struggle for Land and Democracy. Duke University
Press, 1998. p.73

          The democratic reading and discussion of the Bible within the indigenous

communities, as described before, would help them develop a participatory

perspective of politics, which would be brought by them in the formation of the

Neozapatista army.

          The 1974 Indigenous Congress, celebrated in San Cristobal de las Casas,

was another important moment previous to neozapatismo. This was a

governmental initiative to commemorate the centenary of Fray Bartomole de las

Casas, a Spanish religious who defended the indigenous in America from de

viceregal abuse during the Spanish Colony. Due to a lack of representation within

the indigenous, the government asked Samuel Ruíz his help to organize the event,

which he did. The mentioned Congress counted with more than 1,200 delegates

form the biggest ethnic groups from Chiapas, who demanded the legalization of

their lands, denounced the invasion to their lands from farmers, asked that the

Federal Labor Law would be obey, minimum wage respected and to teach school

courses in their own languages. In view of the governmental idea to use this

reunion to get indigenous leaders on its side, the result was the opposite.4

          Due to the Congress, and to the impossibility to unify the different political

slopes in one, a number of organizations emerged, such as the Organización

Campesina Emiliano Zapata (OCEZ), the Central Independiente de Obreros

Agrícolas y Campesinos (CIOAC), among others. At the same time and parallel to

the pastoral work being done in the Lacandon rainforest, future bastion of the

rebels, other groups were developing, such as the Unión del Pueblo (divided in

Maoistas and Guevaristas) and Política Popular (with two tendencies as well: línea

    Ibid. pp.76-79.

de masas y línea proletaria). Both Maoist variants of these organizations got

involved with indigenous community leaders, focusing on organizing and fortifying

another association, Unión de Ejidos. By 1983 the majority of them left Unión de

Ejidos and Chiapas. Such retreat drive a lot of the catechists to take the lead in the

places were Unión had presence. That made them their prime connection outside

of the rainforest. Moreover, they encourage bonds with other indigenous

communities that had other political perspectives.5

       The Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) conformation

       During the sociopolitical agitation in Chiapas mentioned above, and due to

the repressive wave developed by Mexico’s government against the guerrillas in

the country, at the beginning of 1980’s, the Fuerzas de Liberación Nacional (FLN),

a guerrilla organization establish during the nineteen seventies in north Mexico,

arrived to Chiapas. They sent a cell to the Lacandon rainforest, with the

commitment to articulate them self’s with the exploited indigenous of the region.

The FLN’s members arrive to the rain forest with the ‘old’ idea of leading the

communities towards emancipation. Subcomandante Marcos, at the time part of

the FLN and now the official spokesman of the neozapatistas, said:

      We [the FLN members] arrived with that approach. It was the classical
      story of the revolutionary elite that came close to a transformation
      subject, and around him the theory and the movement are built: the
      proletariat, in the Marxist-leninist tradition. What happened was that
      such initial proposal crashed with the indigenous communities, their
      ideas that have another origin, a prehistory of emergencies. So we
      modified our proposal, there is a before and after for zapatismo

  Antonio García de León, “prólogo” en EZLN, Documentos y comunidados No. 1. México, ERA,
1998. p.19 and Héctor Díaz-Polanco y Consuelo Sánchez, México diverso El debate por la
autonomía. México, Siglo XXI, 2002, p.69. García de León mentions how the majoriry of Politica
Popular became high political employees in the ruling political Party, the Partido Revolucionario
Institucional, PRI, and their peasant branch, the Confederacion Nacional Campesina.

      regarding 1994. Zapatismo, what EZLN is, doesn´t spring up from city
      approaches, but it doesn´t birth only from the indigenous communities
      either. It’s born from a mixture of both, from that crash a new discourse
      is produce. 6

      The FLN cell had two initial reasons to interact with the indigenous
communities, said Subcomandante Marcos:
    [one of them was] a survival matter […] If we were not able to
    establish contact with the communities, with the indigenous of the
    region, we couldn’t survive […] [.The second,] we had to be in
    touch with the surrounding population not only because of logistic
    matters, but for political ones because, at the end, what we
    pretended was to organize a revolutionary movement with all of
    them. Thus, since we started that contact […] we had to translate
    our self in another code. One way or another, that language was
    built form bellow to above. What I want to say is that it didn’t come
    from the guerrilla, it came from the Indians that started to come in
    contact with us. From such encounter came the [EZLN] synthesis.7

        The EZLN adopted Emiliano Zapata as their prime national reference, a

Mexican revolutionary who participated in the Mexican Revolution (1910-1920)

against Porfirio Díaz dictatorship. That’s from who they got the Zapatista last

name. Nevertheless, we prefer to use neozapatistas for the guerrilla, in order to

separate both processes. Some of the differences considered relevant are,

besides the temporary and spatial differences (Original Zapatismo was based in

  Manuel Vázquez Montalbán, Marcos: el señor de los espejos México, Punto de Lectura, 2001. p.
145. in Spanish: Nosotros (los de las FLN) llegamos con este planteamiento. Es la clásica historia
de la elite revolucionaria que se acerca a un actor de cambio y en torno a ese actor de cambio
construye la teoría y el movimiento: el proletariado, en el caso de la revolución marxista-leninista.
Lo que pasa es que esa propuesta inicial choca con las comunidades indígenas, con sus
planteamientos, tienen otro sustrato, una prehistoria de emergencias. Y modificamos nuestro
planteamiento, hay un antes y un después del zapatismo con respecto a 1994. El zapatismo, lo que
es el EZLN, no nace de planteamientos que vienen de la ciudad, pero tampoco nace sólo de
planteamientos que vienen de las comunidades indígenas. Nace de esta mezcla, de ese cóctel
molotov, de ese choque que produce un nuevo discurso
  Ibid. pp. 191-192. Spanish: […] una cuestión de supervivencia. […] Si no lográbamos
entrar en contacto con las comunidades, con los indígenas de la zona, no podíamos
sobrevivir, […] teníamos que entrar en contacto con la población de los alrededores no sólo
por cuestiones logísticas sino por cuestiones políticas porque finalmente, lo que nosotros
pretendíamos era organizar un movimiento revolucionario con toda esa gente. Entonces, a
la hora que empezamos a establecer ese contacto […] teníamos que traducirnos a otro
código. De una u otra forma, ese lenguaje se construye de abajo hacia arriba. Quiero decir
que no viene del guerrillero, sino de los indígenas que empiezan a entrar en contacto con
nosotros. De ese encuentro sale la síntesis [del EZLN].

the state of Morelos, and such political movement diminish considerably fast after

Zapata was killed, in 1919):

        Zapata and Francisco Villa, another revolutionary leader from the North,

were able to take Mexico City, where the federal powers where, and decided not

to stay there and try to govern Mexico. At the beginning of the EZLN upraise, the

guerrilla call the rest of the Mexican population to overthrow former president

Carlos Salinas de Gortari, which didn’t occur; the neozapatistas rebelled alone,

Zapata and its followers entered the Revolution during a time where there was

other arm factions; the EZLN negotiations with different federal administrations,

and the principal agreements with them weren’t respected by the latter, as we will

see. The Zapatistas were able to incorporate in the 1917 Mexican Constitution

their basic demand: land distribution for peasants.

       Besides, the EZLN has used the mass media and technology, in particular

internet, to publish their struggle to gain national and international support. As a

result, becoming much more visible than Zapata’s movement, this yields more

political influence around the world. Another difference is the core position that has

the demand for respect and recognition to indigenous cultures in the neozapatistas

than in their predecessors (even though the majority of their followers where

indigenous). Nevertheless, land ownership has been in the basic demands of the

EZLN even before 1994.8

  There are more similar and un similar elements between both groups, as well as author’s with
different opinions in this matter. See Arturo Warman, “El proyecto político del zapatismo”, en
Friederich Katz (comp), Revuelta, Rebelión y Revolución. La lucha rural en México del siglo XVI al
siglo XX. México, ERA, tomo 2, 1999, pp.9-23; John Womack Jr, Zapata y la Revolución Mexicana.
México, Siglo XXI Editores, 1980 (1ª edición en inglés, 1969); Samuel Brunk ¡Emiliano Zapata!
Revolution and Betrayal in Mexico. Albuquerque, University fo New Mexico Press, 1995; Felipe
Arturo Ávila Espinosa, Los origenes del zapatismo. México, El Colegio de México-UNAM, 2001.

        The pioneers of the FLN and the first indigenous members of what would

become the EZLN, officially constituted in November, 1983, shared the notion that

all institutional and peaceful channels where exploitation and basic people’s
necessities could be solved were used up;                 many of the future EZLN members

had already tried a negotiated approach with different government levels, and

concluded that through does paths they weren’t going to solve their problems. The

arm option was the only one left. Two political-economic factors accelerated the

upraise: the fall of international coffee prize, and the beginning of the North

American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

        Added to the down fall of the aromatic, the Mexican government cut all the

subsidies given to the coffee producers, and the state organism in charge of

helping the peasants and regulating the seed in the national market, INMECAFE,

stop doing so. With those actions, coffee growers from Chiapas, Oaxaca and

Veracruz became extremely poor.10

        Within the NAFTA agreement, the land ownership and the state role

regarding agriculture matters changed: due to the mentioned commercial treaty,

the 27th constitutional article was modified. With it, the state was legally drowned

from its social functions towards the peasantry (economic, commercial and

technological help) and, allowed foreigners to buy land in Mexico. The ejido,11

started to be dismantle.12

  First part of Gloria Muñoz, 20 y 10. el fuego y la palabra. México, la Jornada-Rebeldía, 2003.
   Guillermo Almeyra y Emiliano Thibaut, Zapatistas. Un nuevo mundo en construcción. Argentina,
Maipue, 2006.
   This is a land organization, in which the land is partly owned collectively by the peasantry so, in
order to sell part of the lands the community where is at, needed to be approved in an assembly.
That helped to demand State’s assistance, and defend the land collectively, and to guaranty it for

        Another political event that ‘proved’ to the neozapatistas the impossibility of

solving their problems with the current institutions, were the 1988 presidential

elections. That year the official candidate, Carlos Salinas de Gortari, was declared

winner against Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas, former political member of Salinas party,

the Partido Revolucionario Institucional, PRI, whom had ruled Mexico during 60

consecutive years. In such election the computer program used to count the votes

stop working for some time. During that moment, the results could been change

(the electoral commissions at the time was part of the Secretary of the Interior,

meaning that the same government controlled it. The Mexican president at the

time, was from the PRI) favoring Salinas.

         Subcomandante Marcos summarized the rebels thoughts in one of the first

press releases made after the EZLN went public: “[…] For what do we have to ask

forgiveness? What are you going to forgive us for? For not dying of hunger? For

not silencing our misery? For not humbly accepted the gigantic historical burden of

disdain and abandon? For upraising when all the other paths were closed? […]” 13

        The uprising, negotiations with the government and the first steps to

articulate a national political movement

        In January 1st of 1994, the neozapatistas burst in violently in several

municipalities of Chiapas, taking advantage that the local authorities and police

the future generations. With the reform, land was individualized, taking away the ejido’s political
   “. Art. 27, fracción 7 de la Constitución Política de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos, México, Sista, ,
2000. p. 24.
   Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos, “¿De qué nos van a perdonar?, 21 de enero”, en EZLN,
Documentos y comunicados No. 1. México, ERA, cuarta reimpresión, 1998, pp. 89-90. Spanish:
[…] ¿De qué tenemos que pedir perdón? ¿De qué nos van a perdonar? ¿De no morirnos de
hambre? ¿De no callarnos nuestra miseria? ¿De no haber aceptado humildemente la gigantesca
carga histórica de desprecio y abandono? ¿De habernos levantado en armas cuando encontramos
todos los otros caminos cerrados?[…]

forces were of guard due to the New Year’s celebration. Confrontations between

the army and the EZLN took place in seven municipalities. The rebels call

Mexicans to advance towards Mexico City, liberating every town they went through

and letting locals chose their own authorities. They also asked the Nations Powers

(the executive, legislative and judicial) to restore legality and stability in the

country, deposing the ‘dictator’, Carlos Salinas de Gortari; they call “the Mexican

people to participate in this fight for work, land, housing, food, health, education,

independence, freedom, democracy, justice and peace.” 14

        The arm confrontation between the EZLN and the Mexican army lasted until

January 12 of 1994, due to the national and international pressure. By February 20

the first the dialogue between the rebels and the Mexican government started, in

San Cristóbal de las Casas, with Bishop Samuel Ruiz intermediation.15 The

principal demands raised by the neozapatistas had a local component:

electrification of certain parts of Chiapas, more health, schools and bilingual

education for the indigenous communities in the country; economic support for the

fighter’s widows; punishment to anybody who discriminates Indian people;

redistribution in Chiapas of federal investment.16

        Nevertheless, the EZLN put in the negotiation nationwide demands: free

elections, resignation of the president and Chiapas governor; a new federal pact

ending centralism and allowing autonomy for the indigenous municipalities and

    Declaración de la Selva Lacandona, en EZLN, Documentos y comunicados No. 1. México, ERA,
cuarta reimpresión, 1998, p.34. p.35 To read a good summary about the uprising and the
neozpatista struggle in English, SIPAZ, Brief history of the conflict in Chiapas: 1994-2007,
    Samuel Ruiz and others, such as the chiapanecan poet Luis Bañuelos, formed the Comision
Nacional de Intermedacion (CONAI), the oficial group to help in the negotiations. It was disolved by
   “Informe de Marcos” en EZLN. Documentos… op. cit. p. 171.

communities, revise NANFTA, among others.17 The government promise to solve

only the local demands, something that the neozapatistas didn’t accept.18

       After negotiations in San Cristóbal, the EZLN called to conform a National

Democratic Convention (Convención Nacional Democrática CND), an effort to

bring together all the democratic forces in Mexico, electoral or not. The idea was to

construct a transition’s government without an arm struggle, in order to get the PRI

out of office. Others demand were free elections and forming a new national

constituent assembly, in order to establish the new political and social bases in

which the Mexico would be ruled.19

       Such articulation attempt was able to gather almost all of the different left

forces in Mexico, including the two left wing political parties that, at the moment,

were able to compete electorally, the Democratic Revolution Party (Partido de la

Revolución Democrática, PRD), formed in 1989 after Carlos Salinas was declare

president with many fraudulent allegations against Cuauhtémoc Cardenas. This

political formation was a mixture of what was left of the Mexican Communist Party,

by the time called Mexican Socialist Party (Partido Socialista de México), different

local social movements and Corriente Democrática from the PRI, having in

Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas their moral leader, -who was the PRD’s presidential

   “Respuesta a la propuesta de acuerdos para la paz del supremo gobierno”, ibid. pp.260-261.
Italics are ours.
   In June 10 of 1994, after consulting with their civil bases, the EZLN denies the governmental
proposal: 97.88% of the neozapatistas voters said that they shouldn’t sign the peace treaty, and
expressed their support to keep resisting, calling to have a new National Discussion with all the
progressive forces. The rebels refusal, said their spokesman, was due to the Mexican government
denial to solve their national demands. Subcomandante Marcos “Respuesta a la propuesta de
acuerdos para la paz del supremo gobierno,” pp.260-261 y “Resultado de la Consulta” en EZLN,
Documentos y comunicados Tomo 1, op cit. pp. 260-261 y 257-258.
   Italics ours. “Segunda Declaración de la Selva Lacandona”, en Enter

candidate in 1994 and 2000, and the Revolutionary Workers Party, (Partido

Revolucionario de los Trabajadores), a trotskyst formation (few years los it’s

registration as a national party and couldn´t compete in any kind of elections).

Nevertheless, in 1994, a number of disagreements within the groups, concerning

the strategy to follow against new elected president in 1994, Ernesto Zedillo Ponce

de León, from the PRI, and the incapacity from the state CND branches to

consolidated, ended the CND.20

        Ernesto Zedillo’s presidency, still searching for a coalition movement

and the San Andrés Agreements

        Zedillo started his government at the end of 1994, calling the neozapatistas

to restart negotiations with his new administration and, beginning 1995 launched a

military offensive against the EZLN communities trying to capture the guerrilla

leaders. Such attempt failed, and only until June the rebels and the federal

government restarted negotiations in Chiapas.21

        In February 16th of 1996 in the chiapanecan village of San Andrés

Sacam’ch de los Pobres, were signed the first agreements between the

neozapatistas and the federal administration, called de San Andrés Accords (

Acuerdos de San Andrés, ASA). In them, Zedillo’s government assumed the

commitment to incorporate them in the Mexican Constitution. If done, the ASA

    To know more about the differences with in the CND, Ana Esther Ceceña/José
Zaragoza/Equipo Chiapas “Cronología del Conflicto, 1º enero - 1º diciembre de 1994”. Revista Chiapas, No 1,
que se puede consultar en
   At the same time the government launched the attack, it made public the identity of
Subcomandante Marcos, who’s real name, according to official sources is Rafael Sebastián Guillén,
and imprison Javier Elorriaga and other people considered part of the EZLN command. A few
months after they were set free. Gloria Muñoz, 20 y 10, Op. cit.

would apply to all the sates in Mexico, not only Chiapas. The ASA can be divided

in five parts:

            Political rights (indigenous representation and participation in

                 governments and legislatures, respecting their political traditions and


            Jurisdictional rights (accepting indigenous procedures to designate

                 their own authorities and their own normative systems to solve

                 internal conflicts)

            Social rights (guarantying respect for their social organization, their

                 humans necessities and their institutions)

            Economic rights (development of alternative outlines for labor and


            Cultural rights (development of their cultural diversity and accepting

                 their identities).22

      During all the ASA process the neozapatistas had more than 100 advisers,

including academics, political and indigenous leaders from other parts of Mexico.

Such presence and diversity helped to give the discussions a national dimension,

obtaining social support from different society sectors and from the majority of the

indigenous organizations.

      After the ASA signing, Zedillo’s government didn’t show any will to honor

them, so the EZLN decided to suspend negotiations with him, until the previous

           To             look          at         the           complete            Accords, or, Luis Hernández Navarro y
Ramón Vera Herrera (comps), Acuerdos de San Andrés. México, ERA, 2000, especialy pp. 53-96,
that are all the Accords.

agreements were carried out. In view of such scenario, and with the consensus of

both parts, the Concord and Pacification Commission ( Comisión de Concordia y

Pacificación,     COCOPA),        a    federal    congress      commission       integrated     by

representatives of all parties in congress, made an alternative constitutional reform

proposal trying to bring back both parts to negotiations. It was establish that the

COCOPA initiative could only be accepted or rejected, in order to avoid endless


      By November of 1996 COCOPA hand in their proposal. The EZLN called its

advisers and, even though the COCOPA reform left out important parts of the

ASA, they decided to accept it in order to move forward in the negotiations.

Zedillo’s administration rejected it since the beginning. By December, the federal

government presented “various objections” to it, which really were a contra

proposal. At the start of 1997 the rebels declare the proposal unacceptable. By

1998 the government reduce its original observations, but complain about the

same parts as the beginning. Due to the lack of support for his proposal, Zedillo

decided to make it is own legal initiative, contradicting completely the ASA and the

COCOPA reform, and sending it unilaterally to congress.23 Congress rejected it.

      Even though the neozapatistas invested much of their strength in

negotiations with the government to recognize the ASA and, hence, modify the

Mexican Constitution, that wasn´t the only actions they did. They knew it was

   Some of the most important differences between the ASA, the COCOPA initiative and Zedillo’s
proposal were: the political subjects with decision capacity would be the indigenous towns, not the
different ethnic groups, as established in the ASA. That would limit self-determination to small
nucleus, avoiding the possibility of widening it to bigger regions based in culture and language
similarities; access and use of natural resources within the indigenous communities, like oil, would
stay in the government, contradicting the ASA. Francisco López Bárcenas, Autonomía y derechos
indígenas en México. México, CONACULTA, Serie: Derechos indígenas, 2002. pp. 84-85

necessary to have a wide socio-political alliance in order to get the judicial reforms

for the indigenous communities they were working for and, at the same time, to

achieve a democratic change in Mexico.

      After the ineffectiveness of the CND, in 1995 the EZLN propose the creation

of a National Liberation Movement (MLN), basically with the same goals as the

ones proposed at the CND: the creation of a transitional government, an electoral

law that would guaranty fairness in electoral competition, a new Constituent,

ending the state-party system, respect for indigenous communities and their

traditions, as well as the recognition of the right for indigenous autonomy. For that,

the neozapatistas called the CND and Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas, two times former

presidential candidate, to lead it, and invited everyone who sustained their

demands to join it.24 As the CND, the MLN didn’t hold together for long, basically

for the same reasons as the first one.

      In 1996 the EZLN organized the first Intercontinental Encounter Against

Neoliberalism and for Humanity (Intergalágtico), with the participation of people

from different parts of the world. With such event, the rebels inaugurated the

tradition of meeting with different people’s, organizations and learning from other

struggles, every certain time, and started to built social networks that would

support them a around the planet, becoming an important part of their fight.25

      In 1998, as a respond to the federal administration idea to put aside the

COCOPA reform, the EZLN called Mexican and international organizations,

  EZLN, Tercera Declaración de la Selva Lacandona, look Declaraciones
  EZLN, Segunda Declaración de La Realidad por la Humanidad y contra el Neoliberalismo. , look at Declaraciones. A second encouter took place next year in
Spain. The EZLN send a delegation.

groups, collectives, honest political parties and individuals to help them do a

national and international survey, asking whether or not and to what extent they

supported the COCOPA’s initiative. Before the survey, pair of rebels would go to

each municipality in Mexico (more than, 2,500) to explain the initiative.26 After

meeting with more than three thousand delegates in Chiapas in the Primer

Encuentro del EZLN y la Sociedad Civil, to establish what would the survey ask

(besides, the COCOPA question), and how would the logistic of it would be, the

Survey took place in march 1999. According to the neozapatista spokesman, in

Mexico, 2 millions 854 thousand 737 voted and 58 thousand 378 votes were

collected from other countries. Most votes approve the COCOPA proposal in the

Mexican Congress.27

         Even though Zedillo’s constitutional reform wasn´t approved by congress, the

EZLN would not tolerate such action, and since 1997 suspended contact with any

government level. They decided to wait until the 2000 federal elections and see if

the upcoming federal administration and legislature would approve the COCOPA

initiative, or even the ASA, making possible to continue with the peace


         2000 Presidential change and the indigenous conflict

         In 2000 Vicente Fox, a businessman-politician from the National Action Party

(Partido Acción Nacional, PAN, conservative), won the presidential election. It was

the first time in 71 years that the PRI was out of federal office. Faced with such

     EZLN, Quinta Declaración de la Selva Lacandona, look Declaraciones

   Subcomandante Marcos, “Los zapatistas y la manzana de Newton” Mayo de 1999,

political moment, the EZLN announced, in order to reestablish negotiations with

the upcoming administration, they needed three ‘signals’ from it: the approval of

the COCOPA initiative from congress, the liberation of all the neozapatista

prisoners, and shutting down seven of the 259 military positions held in Chiapas.

Fox answered sending the COCOPA reform to congress, and closing the Amador

Hernández and Culxulhá military positions, which was distrustfully acknowledged

by the rebels.28

       Shortly after Fox’s actions, the neozapatistas announced a delegation of 23

EZLN commanders and Subcomandante Marcos that would travel to Mexico City,

to defend in congress the COCOPA proposal in congress. Prior to their arrival in

the Mexican capital, the rebel caravan made a tour in sixteen states of south and

central Mexico, where the majority of the indigenous population lives. The idea

was to show the social support that the EZLN and the COCOPA reform had,

hoping to pressure the federal congress to approve it. The neozapatistas got an

enormous social respond in their tour (every town rally was full), being the most

   During all the conflict in Chiapas, the military and police forces presence has been constant and
numerically important (around 20,000 army troops were establish there, with three elite task forces).
Federal polices forces have increase since the upraise. Paramilitary has been another sight of the
conflict. The worst action they’ve done was, in December of 1997,when they killed 47 unarmed
persons, the majority of them women ( several of them pregnant), children and elderly people, who
were praying in a church. They weren’t part of the EZLN, but from another local organization called
Las Abejas (The Bees) This has been documented by several human rights organizations, like the
Centro de Derechos Humanos Miguel Agustin Pro Juárez
.SIPAZ, an international human rights organization with an office in Mexico, has a lot of information
on the matter , or the Centro de Derechos Humanos Fray
Bartolome de las Casas. At the same time, all of this strategy is part of a counterinsurgency one,
similar to the one used against the guerrillas of the 1980’s in Central American. Paulina Fernández
Christlieb, “El EZLN y la GBI en Chiapas: Derechos indígenas contra corporaciones
trasnacionales”, en Revista Mexicana de Ciencias Políticas, No 188-189, mayo-diciembre de 2003,
México, División de Estudios de Posgrado de la facultad de Ciencias Políticas y Sociales. pp. 213-
265, Gilberto López y Rivas, Autonomías. Democracia o contrainsurgencia. México, Ediciones
ERA, 2004, Lilia de Diego Correa and Carlos Piñeyro Nelson ‘Guerra de baja intensidad y la
conservación militarizada de la biodiversidad en Montes Azules’, en Robinson Salazar (Coord.) La
nueva derecha. Una reflexión latinoamericana. Argentina El Aleph, 2009, pp.205-230

crowded demonstration in Mexico City; around 300, 000 people gather in down

town to welcome them.29 Subcomandante Marcos said in a television interview

broadcast nationwide days before some of the EZLN commanders went to

congress to demonstrate how important the COCOPA approval was for them: “If

we succeed in this pacific mobilization, what’s the need for weapons? 30”

     In April 25, after the EZLN’s commission used the congress tribune to defend

the COCOPA’s reform, the Senate chamber made a ruling substantially different

from it. By the 28 of the same month, the Senate resolution was approved in the

Representatives chamber. In order to be become a federal law it was sent to all of

the local congresses, as the constitutional procedure mandates. If half plus one of

them approve it, the Mexican Constitution would be modified with such reform.

The initiative was rejected in the states of South Baja California, Chiapas, Mexico

State, Guerrero, Hidalgo, Oaxaca, Puebla, San Luis Potosí, Sinaloa and

Zacatecas, states that (with Veracruz) concentrate the vast majority of the

indigenous population in the country.31 However, being approved by 16 local

congresses, the 50% of them plus one, the reform was declared valid. It’s

important to mention that in the Senate, the PRD fraction voted on favor of the law.

Such decision began the rupture between this party and the neozapatistas.

     The EZLN position regarding the new indigenous law was clear:

     The approved constitutional reform in Congress does not respond in any way
     the demands of the indigenous people of Mexico […] It betrays the ASA
     generically and particularly, as well as the so called “COCOPA initiative” in the
     substantial matters: autonomy and self determination, indigenous people as
     public right subjects, land and territories, the use and enjoy of natural

   Gloria Muñóz, 20 y 10… pp. 184-188
   EZLN, Documentos y comunicados. 5. La marcha del color de la tierra. México, ERA. 2003
   Martha Singer, Movimiento indígena en México. México, Guernika, 2005. p. 82

      resources, elections of municipalities authorities and the right to a regional
      association, among others.
      With this reform, the federal representatives as well as Fox’s government shut
      the door for negotiation and peace, avoiding the resolution of one of the
      causes that originated the Zapatista upraise […].
      The EZLN doesn´t recognizes the indigenous culture and rights constitutional
      reform […]; it betrays any negotiated solution hope to the war in Chiapas, and
      revels the complete divorce of the political class with the people’s demands

      By July 2001 different indigenous organizations, ejidos and communities,

promoted 330 constitutional controversies in Mexico’s Supreme Court (SCJN) to

cancel the newly law. The SCJN declared itself incompetent to go through the

constitutional modifications.33

      During the first seven years of armed conflict in Chiapas (1194-2001), the

three federal institutional channels capable of negotiating a peaceful solution, the

executive, legislative and judicial, were the paths in which the EZLN and the

indigenous peasant and social organizations supporting their struggle used trying

to solve the indigenous problem in Mexico and in Chiapas. The solutions and

reactions presented from the Mexican state and the political parties didn´t satisfied

them at all. Thus, the next step for the neozapatistas went in another direction,

   Comunicado del EZLN el 29 de abril del 2001, “La reforma constitucional aprobada en el
Congreso de la Unión no responde en absoluto a las demandas de los pueblos indios de
México, del Congreso Nacional Indígena, del EZLN, ni de la sociedad civil que se movilizó”. go to Docomentos y Comunicados, and search in the year 2001. In
Spanish : La reforma constitucional aprobada en el Congreso de la Unión no responde en
absoluto a las demandas de los pueblos indios de México [....] Traiciona los ASA en lo
general y, en lo particular, la llamada “Iniciativa de Ley de la COCOPA” en los puntos
sustanciales: autonomía y libre determinación, los pueblos indios como sujetos de derecho
público, tierras y territorios, uso y disfrute de recursos naturales, elección de autoridades
municipales y derecho de asociación regional, entre otros.
Con esta reforma, los legisladores federales y el gobierno foxista cierran la puerta del diálogo
y la paz, pues evitan resolver una de las causas que originaron el alzamiento zapatista […]
El EZLN formalmente desconoce esta reforma constitucional sobre derechos y cultura
indígenas [...]; traiciona las esperanzas de una solución negociada de la guerra en Chiapas, y
revela el divorcio total de la clase política respecto de las demandas populares […].
   In Mexico, the only federal juridical institution authorized to examine a federal constitutional
controversy is the SCJN.

one more radical. Before entering their latest proposal, we will see another side of

the rebel’s political action: their autonomous process.

      The neozapatista autonomous process

                             Because autonomy means to govern ourselves. We no longer have to
                        depend on the federal government but rather on what we think and decide
                   amongst ourselves. . . . Before it was the government who made the decisions. It
                       didn’t ask, it just informed. However, our autonomous government impulses
                                                                   and promotes rather than orders.
                       ‘Mauricio’, neozapatista civilian base in the region of Caracol IV (Morelia)34

      The EZLN’s quest for a peaceful solution with the Mexican State started right

after the upraise in 1994. Nevertheless, another fundamental part of such struggle

has been developing a democratic model within their supporter’s communities, the

neozapatista civilian bases (not armed followers). Such effort has focus in direct

participation of the bases in the decision making and in the implementation of the

collective agreements. This can be called an autonomic process.35

      Sometimes an autonomous position has been associated with separatism,

where a local group is trying to ‘balkanized’ a Nation-State. Generally, who pushes

to create an autonomous regime, aspires to set up laws and regulations that would

help improve the undeveloped conditions there in, without abandoning their

  Taken from Mariana Mora “Struggle for Indigenous Rights and Autonomy
Zapatista Anticapitalist Politics and the "Other Campaign": Learning from the Struggle for
Indigenous Rights and Autonomy” Latin American Perspectives 2007; 34; 64
   To learn about this and other autonomus experiences in Latin America, Gilberto López y Rivas y
Leo Gabriel (cords), Autonomías indígenas en América Latina. Nuevas formas de convivencia
política. México, Editores Plaza y Valdés, 2005; Escárzaga, Fabiola y Raquel Gutiérrez (cords),
Movimiento indígena en América Latina: resistencia y proyecto alternativo. México, BUAP, 2005;
Gutiérrez Chong, Natividad (coord.), Estados y Autonomías en democracias contemporáneas.
México, ISS-UNAM y Plaza y Valdés, 2008.

cultural traditions. Indigenous peoples have urged and fought for the building of

such regimes in many places. Mexico is no exception.

      An autonomic arraignment can be consider as:1) a fairly wide permission for

ethnic groups to take care of their own matters, and maintain their traditions and

costumes, and 2) “[…] as a special regime that shapes an own government (self-

government) for certain integrated communities, whom that way chose their

authorities who are part of the collective, practicing legally attributed competences

and having minimum faculty to legislate in internal matters and internal

administration.” 36

      Autonomy can be an answer to the necessity of other political integration set

ups within a Nation-State, based in a coordinated settlement with partial

collectivities, not a subordinated one. Hence, a region or an autonomous

community is constituted as an integrated part of a Nation-State. Put in different

terms, autonomy is the maximum search of “consistency between [cultural]

plurality and political integration.” 37

      Autonomy can be understood as way of self-determination; it implies the

recognition of a communal, municipal and/or regional government, inside the

Nation-State frame; it’s a minor entity in a bigger and sovereign one where such

arraignments (like in parliament) take place. At the same time, is a political,

economic, social and cultural competence distribution in different levels of

government organization. This self-government mechanism acknowledges third

generation rights (regarding collective ones) in sociocultural entities such as

  Héctor Díaz-Polanco, Autonomía regional ,op. cit. p. 150-151.
 Ibid. p.153.

towns. Also, it can recognize certain community rights deeply rooted, that can be

incorporated to different law levels –local, state, federal.38

      Thus, autonomy must be understood as a way to exercise self-determination,

but is useful to separate them. The first concept is acknowledged as way to

develop ‘special’ faculties for smaller demographic and geographic entities,

without achieving state independence. The second one is considered within the

right to seek political separation and the establishment of a Nation-State.39 The

EZLN has always been clear that they are not trying to separate from Mexico in

any manner. They are looking to solve their problems without a centralized,

imposed and vertical policies made by both the federal government as well as the

Chiapas one. they want political representation without losing their cultural

traditions and languages in order to have a better life.40

      The neozapatista’s autonomy started to develop since December of 1994,

when the rebels announced the creation of 34 Rebels Autonomous Zapatistas

Municipalities (Municipios Autónomos Rebeldes Zapatistas, MAREZ). This was

the beginning of a radical democracy experiment; all of the communities in every

MAREZ decide who are going to represented them in the different commissions

where local matters are treated in the MAREZ–for example, health and education-,

where all the representatives of the communities gather to discuss their problems,

as well as in the local commissions. All the representatives in all the commissions

are rotary and do not get pay; while somebody within a community acts as
  Gilberto López y Rivas, Autonomías. Democracia o contrainsurgencia. México, ERA, 2004, p. 39-
  Díaz-Polanco, op cit. Ibid. p157.
   To see the neozapatista perspective, where they clearly reject any independence from Mexico,
check the first, second, third, fifth and six Declaraciones de la Selva Lacandona, in
http// . go to Declaraciones.

representative, the others harvest the land and takes care of their families. All of

the representatives are decided by their local assembly and. can be removed from

their positions, if considered necessary, at any time.41

     Is important to say that in until 2003, the EZLN members, that is the military

branch, were directly involved in the making of political decisions. Such situations

created a subordinated relation between the neozapatista civic bases and the

guerrilla members, more prepared and politicize

     Two years after the approval of the indigenous cultural rights by the Mexican

congress, the neozapatistas, declared a new stage of their democratic process,

making reality part of the ASA: regional autonomy.

     In August 2003, Subcomandante Marcos revealed this new articulations: the

Good Government Councils (or Juntas de Buen Gobierno, JBG, Juntas). There

are five or them. Each one would have in charge a certain number of MAREZ.

That way the autonomy process will reach a regional level. The primary functions

of the Juntas would be:

            Try to counteract the imbalance development in MAREZ and


            Mediate in the conflicts between MAREZ and between MAREZ and

             official municipalities.

            Attend any denounces against the communities commissions

             regarding human rights, investigating the allegations made and, if find

             true, order the correction by the same commissions.

    Adriana López Monjardín, y Dulce María Rebolledo Millán, “Los municipios autónomos
zapatistas”,         en        Revista       Chiapas, No.      7,      tomado       de

              Making sure that all the projects developing within the MAREZ and the

               communities’ are done in time and form.

              Stimulate help in the communitarian projects within the MAREZ.

              Watch the fulfillment of the establish laws agreed in the communities

               within the MAREZ

              Guide and attend the national and international ‘civil society’ carrying

               on any allowed projects in the communities;

              Promote, prepare and approve fellow neozapatistas form the MAREZ

               to participate in activities outside their communities.42

         Acknowledging the negative, and in some cases arbitrary, interference in

the decision making of the civic bases in their communities and in the MAREZ,

from now on only based members were going to be able to be representatives in

any position. All the EZLN members were forbidden to take any representation

position. If any of them wanted to do so, they had to leave the military structure.

The purpose was to democratize the autonomous process by separating the

guerrilla structure from it, authoritarian by definition. The EZLN was to exclusively

monitor the operation of the JBG, making sure that they will carry out their work.

All the Council members will be chosen by the ones the communities have already

chosen to represent them, staying as Juntas members between two weeks and a


     Subcomandante Marcos, “La treceava estela. Sexta parte: Un buen gobierno”, Go to Ensayos and look for date julio del 2003. another novelty was the
Caracoles (snail). This Caracoles are establish in the five JGB . their mission is to take care of the
interaction with foreign visitors; each one of them are suppose to received only people from one
continent. Due to the intention of this work, we will only talk about the JGB.

         Abajo y a la izquierda (left and bellow): preparing the next step

          In march of 2005 Subcomandante Marcos published a essay, where he

          defined the differences between the ‘above’ left and the ‘below’ left:

          One of the problems in the left is with who is identified: with the PRD direction,
          with an ideological and practical consistency of a meringue […]; that promotes
          as a left action program the election of “less bad” rulers, […].
          No. When one looks at the left it shouldn’t look up, but below. The ones above
          are only given in with governments and representative positions, disguised as
          modern sense. The geography of the left […] extends bellow and usually far
          from the above madness. I´m talking, then, of the bellow left, marginalized by the
          above ‘left’ that the right likes so much.

       If the EZLN had clarified where they were standing with their relation with

the ‘above’ left, later on the same year another essay from the rebel’s spokesman

came. In it, Subcomandante Marcos numbered all the things they considered to be

“tactical mistakes” from the PRD, such as their senate vote in favor of the

indigenous reform that the neozapatistas rejected; their alliances with the PRI and

PAN; their political indefinitions regarding other Mexicans social movements;

incorporating former PRI members as their candidates; frauds in their internal

elections, among others.45 But what specially ‘hurt’ the rebels was their

incorporation as party members of who they consider paramilitary in Chiapas who

    Subcomandante Marcos, “Abajo a la izquierda”. La Jornada, 2 de marzo de 2005, in Spanish: Uno de los problemas de la
izquierda es con qué se le identifica: con la dirección del PRD, cuya consistencia ideológica y
práctica es la de un merengue […]que promueven la elección de gobernantes "menos malos"
como programa de acción de la izquierda;
No. Cuando se ve a la izquierda no hay que dirigir la mirada hacia arriba, sino hacia abajo. Lo de
arriba es sólo una claudicación con curules y gobiernos, disfrazada de moderna sensatez. La
geografía de la izquierda […]se extiende abajo y suele estar lejos del frenesí de arriba. Y hablo
entonces de la izquierda de abajo, la marginada por esa "izquierda" de arriba que tanto agrada a la
  Sub Comandante Marcos, “La (imposible) ¿geometría? del Poder en México”, in

attacked and cut the water supply to neozapatistas civil bases in Zinacantán,

being already part of the PRD.46

        The rebels spokesman criticized the PRD future presidential candidate, at

the Time Mayor of Mexico City, Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO): “[his

presidential project is to develop] increasing profits for the rich, misery and

increasing divest for the dispossesses, as well as an order that would control its

discontent. […] AMLO’s project is, as he defined it, a center one […]. And the

center is only a moderate right, a door to a plastic surgery clinic that transforms

social fighters in despots and cynical […].”47

        With the above press release, the EZLN disassociated themselves from

next’s year’s presidential electoral campaign, and started preparing their next step:

the Sixth Declaration of the Selva Lacandona, and the new movement that would

embrace it, the Other Campaign (la Otra Campaña, the Other).

      Change of course: the Sixth Declaration of the Selva Lacandona and
the Other Campaign

        […] The construction of autonomy needs more resources, that is the greatest
           obstacle. It is the most difficult part. We have our land, we have our own
                we work and work and work and we still don’t find good markets to
          sell our products. That is why we have the Other Campaign. For things to
                                    change here, we have to change things elsewhere.
         ‘Nicolas’, neozapatista civilian base in the region of Caracol IV (Morelia)48

   For a detail media recount of what a large proportion of the EZLN supporters, but not only, see as
the moral debacle of the PRD, ,Enrique Pineda, “Leonel en el espejo”, en
   Sub Comandante Marcos, Op. Cit
  Taken from Mariana Mora “Struggle for Indigenous Rights and Autonomy
Zapatista Anticapitalist Politics and the "Other Campaign": Learning from the Struggle for
Indigenous Rights and Autonomy” Latin American Perspectives 2007; 34; 64

        In June of 2005 the EZLN launched its Sixth Declaration of the Selva

Lacandona (Sexta Declaración de la Selva Lacandona, the Sixth). Same as the

other five, this was a political manifesto, where the rebels did a political evaluation

of the national situation. Nevertheless, it incorporated novelties: there is an

anticapitalist position and an internationalist one to,49 recognizing publicly other

resistance processes that weren´t mentioned so clearly before, like the ones held

by the Cubans, the Bolivians, Ecuadorians, the Mapuches in Chile, The Piqueteros

in Argentina, and the Sin Tierra in Brazil. The manifesto establish that:

      1 – We [the neozapatistas] are going to continue fighting for the Indian
      peoples of Mexico, but now not just for them and not with o-nly them, but for
      all the exploited and dispossessed of Mexico, with all of them and all over the
      country. And when we say all the exploited of Mexico, we are also talking
      about the brothers and sisters who have had to go to the United States in
      search of work in order to survive.
      2 - We are going to go to listen to, and talk directly with, without intermediaries
      or mediation, the simple and humble of the Mexican people, and, according to
      what we hear and learn, we are going to go about building, along with those
      people who, like us, are humble and simple, a national program of struggle,
      but a program which will be clearly of the left, or anti-capitalist, or anti-
      neoliberal, or for justice, democracy and liberty for the Mexican people.
      3 - We are going to try to build, or rebuild, another way of doing politics, o-ne
      which o-nce again has the spirit of serving others, without material interests,
      with sacrifice, with dedication, with honesty, which keeps its word, whose o-nly
      payment is the satisfaction of duty performed, or like the militants of the left did

    It’s true that there is, in one the first press releases of the EZLN, where Subcomandante Marcos
says that, “When there is a moment of peace […] we hear another voice that’s not coming form
above, but from the bellow wind […] talking about justice and freedom, about socialism, […] talking
about hope.” Nevertheless, since the second Declaration of the Selva Lacandona, there is not any
mention of socialism or anticapitalism; in an interview to Sub Comandante Marcos, he clearly said
that EZLN wasn’t proposing a socialist system. -“El guerrillero en el asfalto” entrevista de Matilde
Campodónico y Eduardo Blasona con el Subcomandante Marcos para el periódico uruguayo El
Observador. Tomado de the quote in
spanish:“[…]cuando hay un momento de reposo, que los hay todavía, escuchan otra voz, no la que
viene de arriba, sino la que trae el viento de abajo y que nace del corazón indígena de las
montañas, la [sic] que les habla de justicia y libertad, la que les habla de socialismo [sic], la que les
habla de esperanza [...]" (Chiapas: el Sureste en dos vientos, una tormenta y una profecía”, en
EZLN Documentos y Comunicados…, op. cit p.62), with the Sixth Declaración de la Selva
Lacandona, the anticapitalist posture ins completely evident

      before, when they were not stopped by blows, jail or death, let alone by dollar
      4 - We are also going to go about raising a struggle in order to demand that
      we make a new Constitution, new laws which take into account the demands
      of the Mexican people, which are: housing, land, work, food, health, education,
      information, culture, independence, democracy, justice, liberty and peace. A
      new Constitution which recognizes the rights and liberties of the people, and
      which defends the weak in the face of the powerful.50

        After the Sixth’s divulgation, the EZLN started a number of meetings in

Chiapas, to start building the anticapitalist and not electoral alliances in Mexico as

in the rest of the planet (the international section is called Zezta Internacional).

The idea was to conform a multiple network where they weren’t the leaders,

capable of pressuring which ever presidential candidate was elected in 2006,

stopping the capitalist advance in Mexico, and becoming an ‘umbrella’ for all its


        Finishing reunions in Chiapas, the latest neozapatista articulation was

called the Other Campaign (la Otra Capaña, the Other), a clear allusion to the

2006 electoral process. The first phase of the Other was a tour from a EZLN

delegation, throughout Mexico. Meetings were conducted with different social

movements, organizations, struggles and peoples in their specific contexts. The

purpose was to build bridges between all of them, in order to develop a strong

network. A lot of the organizations part of the Other hadn’t been close to the rebels

movement .The political tendencies were various: communists, socialists,

trotskysts, anarchists. Others, who before the Sixth were fond of the

neozapatistas, because of their public dispute with López Obrador, decided to

support     the     latter.   By     February       2006,      1,036   political.   Indigenous,

  CCRI-CGEZLN,            “Sixth      Declaration        of      the      Selva       Lacandona“ Our Italics.

nongovernmental, and other organizations, had showed their support to the


       The Other

       In May 2006, due to the repression held by the federal, state and local

police forces, towards the Peoples Defending Land Front (Frente de Pueblos en

Defensa de la Tierra, FPDT), one of the most symbolic organizations within the

Other,52 hundreds of people were detained, two young men were killed and at

least 25 women were raped by the policeman.53 the Other and the EZLN set up a

strategy to get all of the FPDT members out of jail and demanded punishment to

all the policeman who acted with disproportionate violence. The primary action

where numerous demonstrations in all of Mexico as in several parts of the world.

The quickness showed by the Other, as well as the relatively effectiveness to get

out of jail the majority of the prisoners (only 12 are still in prison), was


       Nevertheless, the Other was wear out after all the activities supporting the

FPDT people’s, and the electoral result didn’t help: in July of 2006 presidential

elections took place in Mexico. AMLO, to whom all the past months polls gave him

a 10 points advantage from Felipe Calderón, the candidate from the ruling PAN

and the closest opponent. After election day, the Federal Institutions in charge of

validating the results, declared Calderón winner, by 200, 000 votes, which meant

he was less than .5 of a percentage point away from loosing, among a strong

   Subcomandante Marcos, “Los primeros otros vientos”, en La Jornada del 21 de febrero del 2006.
    They stopped the federal airport project in their lands in Mexico State during the Fox’s
administration; the government offer to pay the owners 7 cents the square meter, something that
the majority of the town rejected.
   Periódico La Jornada, 10 de septiembre del 2006.

sensation of fraud against AMLO.54 As a respond to this, AMLO’s followers

occupied Refoma avenue, one of the most important communication arteries in

Mexico City, demanding a complete recount of the election. The social

mobilization was impressive. Even organizations link to the Other became part of

López Obrador’s resistance movement, who were expel from the Other due to this.

If the Other and the EZLN where criticized for their initial position against AMLO,

with such disputed election, many people blamed the neozapatistas even more for

not supporting López Obrador’s campaign.

       Another important event during 2006 and part of 2007 was a massive

mobilization in Oaxaca, started by the teachers union who, demanding an increase

in their salaries made a camp in down town to pressure the authorities. The state

government responded with repression, overthrowing them in November. A large

portion of Oaxaca’s society, along with more than 300 organizations, created the

Oaxaca Peoples Assembly (Asamblea Popular de los Pueblos de Oaxaca,

APPO), which took over the state capital, in the beginning supporting the teacher’s

petitions, to later grow looking to overthrow the governor, Ulises Ruiz. The

movement was so strong that took over the state capital for a couple of months,

shutting down all the local powers, barricading all the city and deciding in their

general assembly how were things going to be done. During this social

effervescence a lot of organizations of the Other supported APPO’s process. The

‘commune’ finish when federal police regain control in January of the next year.

   Para corroborar, o ver los alegatos del por qué se considera que hubo fraude en las pasadas
elecciones federales, ver el periódico La Jornada y la revista semanal Proceso desde el 2 de julio
hasta septiembre del 2006, o el artículo de Héctor Díaz-Polanco “México: La batalla de los
renegados”, en Memoria cemos, agosto de 2006, No. 210, pp.5-9.

      The Other in all Mexico has kept doing numerous activities, principally to

free all the political prisoners it has, specially the one´s from Atenco. The EZLN

has done or participated in several encounters in the last years, such as:

Encuentro de Pueblos Indios de Amércia, in Vícam, Sonora Mexico (Oct. 2007);

Tercer Encuentro de los Pueblos Zapatistas con los Pueblos del Mundo“La

Comandanta Ramona y las zapatistas”( Dec. 2008), the Primer Festival de la

Digna Rabia (Jan 2009), with three spaces, one in Mexico City and two in Chiapas,

and        the        Primer        Encuentro          Continental       Americano

contra la Impunidad y por la Justicia Autónoma (Jun 2009) that took place in

EZLN’s territory.

      Another form the Other has been organized is according to social affinities

(workers, alternative media, prostitutes, indigenous, etc.) having each of this

subdivisions their own reunions and plan actions. Along the years a number of

them have taken places in different parts of Mexico.

      The neozapatista autonomous process

      Besides the democratic learning the autonomic process has meant for the

neozapatistas followers, the other two core parts of it has been developing an

educational and health system for their civilian bases. It’s not easy to ‘measure’

how deep have all these changes been and how beneficial or not.

      In 2004, one year after the Junta’s began to work, Subcomandante Marcos

made a public balance of the entire autonomic course. He mentioned some faults,

like the women’s participation in the different representations, the relationship

between the civilian bases and the military structure and the slow administration in

the Juntas due to the constant change of people within them. On the first matter,

the spokesman acknowledges a big gap between genders: there is only around

40% of women as representatives in the local commissions, dropping to less than

one percent in the Juntas. In second topic, the guerrilla’s ‘escort’ in the

development of the Juntas has been more a direction-mandatory one that an

adviser one. regarding the last point, the rebels leader said that the idea was to

built a ‘governmental school’ as big as possible; even though the weekly or

monthly changes in the Juntas could affect their work, it’s been a good way to

avoid any acts corruption.55

          On health and education, Subcomandante said that they had goo results:

medical attention is free, almost all medicines are too; the firs surgery was done in

rebel territory and a laboratory to process medical plants started to be equipped.

All of this was possible, due to the economic help received by civil society.

Regarding education, 50 schools were built during the last year and 300 were

equipped 56

          On 2005 Paz con Democracia, a civil society group conform by many

Mexican intellectuals and human rights activists, did a trip to four of the five

Juntas. At two years of their creation, the report made established an increase in

government tasks done by from youth and women, a rotary system within the

Junta’s representative, and a good justice system, which privileged solving any

disputes through negotiation. Even non neozapatistas would approach the Junta’s

asking for their intervention in related matters. The commission ratified the

     Subcomandante Marcos “Para leer un video, segunda parte”, La jornada, 21 de agosto 2004.

achievements mentioned by Subcomandante Marcos. The report established a

lack of economic sustainability, in spite of many productive projects in rebel


        A recent study about the neozapatista education concluded that

         As far as education is concerned, the Tzeltal, Ch’ol, Tojolabal, and Tzotzil
         youth of the Lacandón forest occupy responsible positions subject to the
         decisions of their local assemblies, but they cannot be considered dominant
         because their activities are scrupulously supervised, controlled, and
         evaluated by an intergenerational body made up of other social actors.
         These communities, which are demographically dominated by young people
         and children, appear to be interested in achieving an educational system that
         is not subject to alien norms. Their struggle to appropriate the school calls
         into question the current national cultural policy and project, in which
         indigenous self-determination in the area of formal education is still illegal. In
         order to overcome this constraint, young Zapatista education promoters have
         been attempting for years to do what the Sixth Declaration proposes: “to
         reconstruct another way of doing politics, one that once again has the aim of
         serving others without material interest, with sacrifice, dedication, honesty;
         one which keeps its word, whose only payment lies in the satisfaction of
         fulfilling one’s duty […]58


         The neozapatista struggle has been important in Mexico’s society and

political system. The 1994 upraise, along with other political struggles, accelerated

democratization in Mexico that led to a different political party to win the presidency

in 2000. Nevertheless, such institutional changes haven’t been traduced in

something useful to solve the EZLN and de majority of the indigenous populations

  Paz       con    Democracia      “Balance     de     las    Juntas    de      Buen    Gobierno”, . some of the personalities who
did the tou rare : Alicia Castellanos, Carlos Fazio, Dolores González, Gilberto López y Rivas, Luis
Villoro, Miguel Álvarez Gándara, Miguel Concha Malo y Paulina Fernández. The report is endorsed
by Juan Bañuelos, Pablo González Casanova, Manuel Pérez Rocha, Adelfo Regino, Ana Esther
Ceceña, Magdalena Gómez, among others.
    Bruno Baronnet, “Rebel Youth and Zapatista Autonomous Education”, Latin American
Perspectives 2008; 35; 112., p. 122 The online version of this article can be found at:

demands.59 As seen in this paper, for many years the path chosen to improve their

civil supporters were the legal and peaceful ones.

         Thus, it cannot surprise their change of tactics and discourse, their

radicalization. But since the uprising until know, they’ve had always fought to get

legal recognition for their autonomic process (the Sixth Declaration calls to make a

new constituent, as well as the other Declarations), without stopping it if such laws

haven’t been placed in the Mexican Constitution.

         Neozapatismo, as any other massive social movement, is not exempt from

mistakes and inequity within their members.60 Considering all the obstacles had,

specially the counterinsurgency develop in their territories and the lack of

institutional answers, their survival as an organization is no minor achievement,

specially showing another way of developing democracy.

  María de la Luz Inclán, “ From the ¡Ya Basta! to the Caracoles:Zapatista Mobilization under
Transitional Conditions” American Journal of Sociology Volume 113 Number 5 (March 2008): 1316–
  Marco Estrada Saavedra, “Los conflictos internos del zapatismo en las cañadas tojolabales de la
Selva Lacandona (1994-2003)”, Sociológica, año 22, número 63, enero-abril de 2007, pp. 177-209


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