[OPE-L] Zapatistas Warn of War on the Horizon

From: Gerald Levy (glevy@LAGCC.CUNY.EDU)
Date: Wed Jan 02 2008 - 19:11:11 EST


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Subject: [Justiceforbrad] Zapatistas Warn of War on the Horizon


Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) spokesperson Subcomandante
Marcos warned of possible coming war in Mexico's impoverished
southern state of Chiapas, and announced his departure from public
life. "War, like fear, also has a smell, and now its fetid odor is

starting to permeate our land," Marcos told a meeting of social

groups in San Cristobal de las Casas. "This is the last time,
least for a good while, that we will come out for activities of
type," Marcos said at a seminar honoring French-born
historian and
anthropologist Andres Aubry.

Marcos said
the "supposedly leftist" local and state administrations
in Chiapas were to blame for rising tensions, and that the Democratic

Revolution Party-dominated Chiapas government was intent on
destroying the autonomous communities the Zapatistas have helped set
up. He said that incidents have been building up in the territory,
but complained that for the media, the Zapatistas only become news
"when we kill or are dying." Marcos said his Zapatista Army of

National Liberation for two years has been trying to set itself up
a political movement in all Mexico, but that it was ready once
to stand alone and defend itself from attack. He said
"for the first
time" since the Zapatistas' uprising in
1994, the once widespread
national and international social support
the Zapatistas have
customarily received this time has been
"insignificant or null."

Sources: Associated Press:
12/16; Platts Commodity News English: 12/18


Klein in San Cristobal

Nativity scenes are plentiful in San
Cristobal de las Casas, a
colonial city in the highlands of Chiapas,
Mexico. But the one that
greets visitors at the entrance to the
TierrAdentro cultural center
has a local twist: figurines on donkeys
wear miniature ski masks and
carry wooden guns. It is high season
for "Zapatourism", the industry
of international travelers
that has sprung up around the indigenous
uprising here, and
TierrAdentro is ground zero. Zapatista-made
weavings, posters and
jewellery are selling briskly. In the courtyard
restaurant, where
the mood at 10pm is festive, verging on fuzzy,
college students
drink Sol beer. A young man holds up a photograph of
the rebel
leader, Subcomandante Marcos, as always in a mask with a
pipe, and
kisses it. As he does so, his friends snap yet another
picture of
this most documented of movements.

I am taken through the
revelers to a room at the back of the cultural
center, closed to the
public. The somber mood here seems a world
away. Ernesto Ledesma
Arronte, a 40-year-old ponytailed researcher,
is hunched over
military maps and human rights incident reports. "Did
understand what Marcos said?" he asks me. "It was very strong.
hasn't said anything like that in many years." Ledesma
Arronte is
referring to a speech that Marcos made the night before,
at a
conference outside San Cristobal. The speech was titled Feeling
the Calendar and the Geography of War. Because it was Marcos,
it was
poetic and slightly elliptical. But to Ledesma Arronte's
ears, it was
a code-red alert. "Those of us who have made war
know how to
recognize the paths by which it is prepared and brought
near," Marcos
said. "The signs of war on the horizon are
clear. War, like fear,
also has a smell. And now we are starting to
breathe its fetid odor
in our lands."

assessment supports what Ledesma Arronte and his fellow
at the Center of Political Analysis and Social and
Investigations have been tracking with their maps and
charts. On the
56 permanent military bases that the Mexican state
runs on
indigenous land in Chiapas, there has been a marked increase
activity. Weapons and equipment are being dramatically upgraded
new battalions are moving in, including special forces - all
of escalation.

As the Zapatistas became a global symbol for a
new model of
resistance, it was possible to forget that the war in
Chiapas never
actually ended. For his part, Marcos - despite his
identity - has been playing a defiantly open role in
politics, most notably during the fiercely contested 2006

presidential elections. Rather than endorsing the left-left
candidate, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, he spearheaded a parallel
"Other Campaign", holding rallies that called attention to
ignored by the major candidates. In this period, Marcos's
role as
military leader of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation
seemed to fade into the background. He was Delegate Zero -
anti-candidate. The previous evening, Marcos had announced that
conference would be his last such appearance for some time.
the EZLN is an army," he reminded his audience, and
he is its
"military chief". That army faces a grave new
threat - one that cuts
to the heart of the Zapatistas' struggle.

During the 1994 uprising, the EZLN claimed large stretches of land

and collectivized them, its most tangible victory. In the San Andres

accords of 1996, the right to territory was recognized, but the
Mexican government has refused to fully ratify the accords. After
failing to enshrine these rights, the Zapatistas decided to turn them

into facts on the ground. They formed their own government
- good-government councils - and stepped up the building
autonomous schools and clinics. As the Zapatistas expand their
as the de facto government in large areas of Chiapas, the
federal and
state government's determination to undermine them is

"Now," says Ledesma Arronte,
"they have their method." The method is
to use the deep
desire for land among all peasants in Chiapas against
Zapatistas. Ledesma Arronte's organization has documented the
in which, in just one region, the government has spent
$16m expropriating land, before passing it on - to
members of the
many families linked to the notoriously corrupt
Revolutionary party (PRI). Often, the land is already
occupied by
Zapatista families. Most ominously, many of the new
"owners" are linked to thuggish paramilitary groups, which are
to force the Zapatistas from the newly titled land. Since
there has been a marked escalation in violence, including
shots fired
into the air, brutal beatings, and Zapatista families
reporting being
threatened with death, rape and dismemberment. Soon
the soldiers in
their barracks may well have the excuse they need to
restoring "peace" among feuding indigenous
groups. For months, the
Zapatistas have been resisting violence and
trying to expose these
provocations. But by choosing not to line up
behind Lopez Obrador in
the 2006 election, the movement made
powerful enemies. And now, says
Marcos, their calls for help are
being met with a deafening silence.

Exactly 10 years ago, on
December 22 1997, as part of the
anti-Zapatista campaign, a
paramilitary gang opened fire in a small
church in the village of
Acteal, killing 45 indigenous people, 16 of
them children and
adolescents. Some of the bodies were hacked with
machetes. The state
police heard the gunfire and did nothing. For
weeks now, Mexico's
newspapers have been filled with articles marking
the anniversary of
the massacre. In Chiapas, however, many people
point out that
conditions today feel eerily familiar: the
paramilitaries, the
rising tension, the mysterious activities of
soldiers, the renewed
isolation from the rest of the country. And
they have a plea to
those who supported them in the past: don't just
look back. Look
forward, and prevent another Acteal massacre before
it happens.

Source: The Guardian: 12/21a

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