Zach Miller (zarfmouse) wrote,
Zach Miller

Something big is happening in Chiapas.

EDIT: Links to Enlgish translations of the complete three-part Sixth Declaration of the Selva Lacandona are now available.

On January 1st 1994, the day that NAFTA went into effect, a group of Indigenous Mayan rebels in Chiapas, Mexico, who had been secretly training in the Jungles of the Lacondon rain forest for over a decade, rose up and declared much of the territory of Chiapas to be under the autonomous control of the indigenous people. These people called themselves the Zapatistas, named after Emiliano Zapata who fought in the Mexican revolution of 1910 and helped establish indigenous common land rights in the Mexican Constitution. Those land rights would become illegal barriers to trade under NAFTA, effectively stealing the homes of tens of thousands of Indigenous in this remote region. Since their uprising in 1994 the Zapatistas have faced a decade long "Low Intensity War" waged upon them by the Mexican government (both under the old corrupt PRI and the neo-liberal reformers of the PAN).

The Zapatista movement in Chiapas has long been an inspiration for radical activists worldwide. It is seen as an anarchist success story. The army (headed by a "subcommander") is controled by direct consultation of the people of the autonomous villages of Chiapas (known as "commanders"). It is a radically democratic army of self-defense. The movement as a whole has provided AMAZING social services (medical, educational, communications infrastructure, etc) to the people of Chiapas and the impact on the quality of life there has been dramatic. The Zapatistas eagerness to do outreach to other social movements throughout the world has been one of the major driving forces behind the formation of the highly organized but completely decentralized "movement of movements" that has grown tremendously in the last decade. The roots of the worldwide anti-corporate globalization movement can in large part be tied directly back not just to the convergence of social movments in Seattle in 1999 but to the Zapatista uprising in 1994 (do you remember how in 1992 the only people making a splash by arguing against NAFTA was a crazy billionaire running for president?).

Last week the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) released a dramatic General Red Alert which announced that all Zapatistas serving in both Good Government and Military roles would be moving out of established positions and into shelter/hiding. The Red Alert also released all allies of the Zapatistas from further obligation to, association with, or responsibility for future actions of the EZLN. The Red Alert invited those allies to leave or to stay freely but required that non-Zapatista allied minor children leave the rebel territories.

A day later the General Command of the EZLN released a communique stating that the EZLN had been reoganized so that it could withstand an attack which wiped out its entire public general leadership. They also released a statement on the motives for the Red Alert in which it was stated that a general consulta of all the indigenous peoples of Chiapas had been called and that they would be considering taking their struggle in a fundamentally new direction. The statement clarified that they would be willing to risk their lives to take this new direction but that launching an offensive war was NOT under consideration.

A day later Subcomandante Marcos released a letter thanking all the allies of the Zapatista movement throughout the world and vaguely suggesting that as some Zapatistas would be leaving. He also suggested that upon liberation of the Zapatista people they would look forward to participating in World Cup soccer. (EDIT: The letter doesn't actually mention World Cup, that was my own error in translating the translation. See below).

Two days ago, the EZLN released the results of the consulta which had taken place among tens of thousands of Zapatistas in meetings and assemblies and support bases throughout the rebel territories. It revealed that 98% of those consulted agreed on the "new step".

Today, the Sixth Delcaration (link to Chiapas Indymedia because no English translation is yet available from the official EZLN site) released by the EZLN since 1994 was released. It gives a history of the movement to the present, noting both successes and failures, and begins to outline the plans for the "new step". I really can't figure out from the text of the Declaration if they have revealed what the "new step" is yet. But something big is definitely happening in Chiapas.

       Originally published in Spanish by the Zapatista Army of National
       Translated by irlandesa
       Zapatista Army of National Liberation.
       Sixth Declaration of the Selva Lacandona
       This is our simple word which seeks to touch the hearts of humble
       and simple people like ourselves, but people who are also, like
       ourselves, dignified and rebel. This is our simple word for
       recounting what our path has been and where we are now, in order
       to explain how we see the world and our country, in order to say
       what we are thinking of doing and how we are thinking of doing it,
       and in order to invite other persons to walk with us in something
       very great which is called Mexico and something greater which is
       called the world. This is our simple word in order to inform all
       honest and noble hearts what it is we want in Mexico and the
       world. This is our simple word, because it is our idea to call on
       those who are like us and to join together with them, everywhere
       they are living and struggling.
       I - What We Are
       We are the zapatistas of the EZLN, although we are also called
       *neo-zapatistas.* Now, we, the zapatistas of the EZLN, rose up in
       arms in January of 1994 because we saw how widespread had become
       the evil wrought by the powerful who only humiliated us, stole
       from us, imprisoned us and killed us, and no one was saying
       anything or doing anything. That is why we said *Ya Basta!,* that
       no longer were we going to allow them to make us inferior or to
       treat us worse than animals. And then we also said we wanted
       democracy, liberty and justice for all Mexicans although we were
       concentrated on the Indian peoples. Because it so happened that
       we, the EZLN, were almost all only indigenous from here in
       Chiapas, but we did not want to struggle just for own good, or
       just for the good of the indigenous of Chiapas, or just for the
       good of the Indian peoples of Mexico. We wanted to fight along
       with everyone who was humble and simple like ourselves and who was
       in great need and who suffered from exploitation and thievery by
       the rich and their bad governments here, in our Mexico, and in
       other countries in the world.
       And then our small history was that we grew tired of exploitation
       by the powerful, and then we organized in order to defend
       ourselves and to fight for justice. In the beginning there were
       not many of us, just a few, going this way and that, talking with
       and listening to other people like us. We did that for many years,
       and we did it in secret, without making a stir. In other words, we
       joined forces in silence. We remained like that for about 10
       years, and then we had grown, and then we were many thousands. We
       trained ourselves quite well in politics and weapons, and,
       suddenly, when the rich were throwing their New Year*s Eve
       parties, we fell upon their cities and just took them over. And we
       left a message to everyone that here we are, that they have to
       take notice of us. And then the rich took off and sent their great
       armies to do away with us, just like they always do when the
       exploited rebel - they order them all to be done away with. But we
       were not done away with at all, because we had prepared ourselves
       quite well prior to the war, and we made ourselves strong in our
       mountains. And there were the armies, looking for us and throwing
       their bombs and bullets at us, and then they were making plans to
       kill off all the indigenous at one time, because they did not know
       who was a zapatista and who was not. And we were running and
       fighting, fighting and running, just like our ancestors had done.
       Without giving up, without surrendering, without being defeated.
       And then the people from the cities went out into the streets and
       began shouting for an end to the war. And then we stopped our war,
       and we listened to those brothers and sisters from the city who
       were telling us to try to reach an arrangement or an accord with
       the bad governments, so that the problem could be resolved without
       a massacre. And so we paid attention to them, because they were
       what we call *the people,* or the Mexican people. And so we set
       aside the fire and took up the word.
       And it so happened that the governments said they would indeed be
       well-behaved, and they would engage in dialogue, and they would
       make accords, and they would fulfill them. And we said that was
       good, but we also thought it was good that we knew those people
       who went out into the streets in order to stop the war. Then,
       while we were engaging in dialogue with the bad governments, we
       were also talking with those persons, and we saw that most of them
       were humble and simple people like us, and both, they and we,
       understood quite well why we were fighting. And we called those
       people *civil society* because most of them did not belong to
       political parties, rather they were common, everyday people, like
       us, simple and humble people.
       But it so happened that the bad governments did not want a good
       agreement, rather it was just their underhanded way of saying they
       were going to talk and to reach accords, while they were preparing
       their attacks in order to eliminate us once and for all. And so
       then they attacked us several times, but they did not defeat us,
       because we resisted quite well, and many people throughout the
       world mobilized. And then the bad governments thought that the
       problem was that many people saw what was happening with the EZLN,
       and they started their plan of acting as if nothing were going on.
       Meanwhile they were quick to surround us, they laid siege to us in
       hopes that, since our mountains are indeed remote, the people
       would then forget, since zapatista lands were so far away. And
       every so often the bad governments tested us and tried to deceive
       us or to attack us, like in February of 1995 when they threw a
       huge number of armies at us, but they did not defeat us. Because,
       as they said then, we were not alone, and many people helped us,
       and we resisted well.
       And then the bad governments had to make accords with the EZLN,
       and those accords were called the *San Andres Accords* because the
       municipality where those accords were signed was called *San
       Andres.* And we were not all alone in those dialogues, speaking
       with people from the bad governments. We invited many people and
       organizations who were, or are, engaged in the struggle for the
       Indian peoples of Mexico, and everyone spoke their word, and
       everyone reached agreement as to how we were going to speak with
       the bad governments. And that is how that dialogue was, not just
       the zapatistas on one side and the governments on the other.
       Instead, the Indian peoples of Mexico, and those who supported
       them, were with the zapatistas. And then the bad governments said
       in those accords that they were indeed going to recognize the
       rights of the Indian peoples of Mexico, and they were going to
       respect their culture, and they were going to make everything law
       in the Constitution. But then, once they had signed, the bad
       governments acted as if they had forgotten about them, and many
       years passed, and the accords were not fulfilled at all. Quite the
       opposite, the government attacked the indigenous, in order to make
       them back out of the struggle, as they did on December 22, 1997,
       the date on which Zedillo ordered the killing of 45 men, women,
       old ones and children in the town in Chiapas called ACTEAL. This
       immense crime was not so easily forgotten, and it was a
       demonstration of how the bad governments color their hearts in
       order to attack and assassinate those who rebel against
       injustices. And, while all of that was going on, we zapatistas
       were putting our all into the fulfillment of the accords and
       resisting in the mountains of the Mexican southeast.
       And then we began speaking with other Indian peoples of Mexico and
       their organizations, and we made an agreement with them that we
       were going to struggle together for the same thing, for the
       recognition of indigenous rights and culture. Now we were also
       being helped by many people from all over the world and by persons
       who were well respected and whose word was quite great because
       they were great intellectuals, artists and scientists from Mexico
       and from all over the world. And we also held international
       encuentros. In other words, we joined together to talk with
       persons from America and from Asia and from Europe and from Africa
       and from Oceania, and we learned of their struggles and their
       ways, and we said they were *intergalactic* encuentros, just to be
       silly and because we had also invited those from other planets,
       but it appeared as if they had not come, or perhaps they did come,
       but they did not make it clear.
       But the bad governments did not keep their word anyway, and then
       we made a plan to talk with many Mexicans so they would help us.
       And then, first in 1997, we held a march to Mexico City which was
       called *of the 1,111* because a companero or companera was going
       to go from each zapatista town, but the bad government did not pay
       any attention. And then, in 1999, we held a consulta throughout
       the country, and there it was seen that the majority were indeed
       in agreement with the demands of the Indian peoples, but again the
       bad governments did not pay any attention. And then, lastly, in
       2001, we held what was called the *march for indigenous dignity*
       which had much support from millions of Mexicans and people from
       other countries, and it went to where the deputies and senators
       were, the Congress of the Union, in order to demand the
       recognition of the Mexican indigenous.
       But it happened that no, the politicians from the PRI, the PAN and
       the PRD reached an agreement among themselves, and they simply did
       not recognize indigenous rights and culture. That was in April of
       2001, and the politicians demonstrated quite clearly there that
       they had no decency whatsoever, and they were swine who thought
       only about making their good money as the bad politicians they
       were. This must be remembered, because you will now be seeing that
       they are going to say they will indeed recognize indigenous
       rights, but it is a lie they are telling so we will vote for them.
       But they already had their chance, and they did not keep their
       And then we saw quite clearly that there was no point to dialogue
       and negotiation with the bad governments of Mexico. That it was a
       waste of time for us to be talking with the politicians, because
       neither their hearts nor their words were honest. They were
       crooked, and they told lies that they would keep their word, but
       they did not. In other words, on that day, when the politicians
       from the PRI, PAN and PRD approved a law that was no good, they
       killed dialogue once and for all, and they clearly stated that it
       did not matter what they had agreed to and signed, because they
       did not keep their word. And then we did not make any contacts
       with the federal branches. Because we understood that dialogue and
       negotiation had failed as a result of those political parties. We
       saw that blood did not matter to them, nor did death, suffering,
       mobilizations, consultas, efforts, national and international
       statements, encuentros, accords, signatures, commitments. And so
       the political class not only closed, one more time, the door to
       the Indian peoples, they also delivered a mortal blow to the
       peaceful resolution - through dialogue and negotiation - of the
       war. It can also no longer be believed that the accords will be
       fulfilled by someone who comes along with something or other. They
       should see that there so that they can learn from experience what
       happened to us.
       And then we saw all of that, and we wondered in our hearts what we
       were going to do.
       And the first thing we saw was that our heart was not the same as
       before, when we began our struggle. It was larger, because now we
       had touched the hearts of many good people. And we also saw that
       our heart was more hurt, it was more wounded. And it was not
       wounded by the deceits of the bad governments, but because, when
       we touched the hearts of others, we also touched their sorrows. It
       was as if we were seeing ourselves in a mirror.
       II. - Where We Are Now
       Then, like the zapatistas we are, we thought that it was not
       enough to stop engaging in dialogue with the government, but it
       was necessary to continue on ahead in the struggle, in spite of
       those lazy parasites of politicians. The EZLN then decided to
       carry out, alone and on their side (*unilateral*, in other words,
       because just one side), the San Andres Accords regarding
       indigenous rights and culture. For 4 years, since the middle of
       2001 until the middle of 2005, we have devoted ourselves to this
       and to other things which we are going to tell you about.
       Fine, we then began encouraging the autonomous rebel zapatista
       municipalities * which is how the peoples are organized in order
       to govern and to govern themselves * in order to make themselves
       stronger. This method of autonomous government was not simply
       invented by the EZLN, but rather it comes from several centuries
       of indigenous resistance and from the zapatistas* own experience.
       It is the self-governance of the communities. In other words, no
       one from outside comes to govern, but the peoples themselves
       decide, among themselves, who governs and how, and, if they do not
       obey, they are removed. If the one who governs does not obey the
       people, they pursue them, they are removed from authority, and
       another comes in.
       But then we saw that the Autonomous Municipalities were not level.
       There were some that were more advanced and which had more support
       from civil society, and others were more neglected. The
       organization was lacking to make them more on a par with each
       other. And we also saw that the EZLN, with its political-military
       component, was involving itself in decisions which belonged to the
       democratic authorities, *civilians* as they say. And here the
       problem is that the political-military component of the EZLN is
       not democratic, because it is an army. And we saw that the
       military being above, and the democratic below, was not good,
       because what is democratic should not be decided militarily, it
       should be the reverse: the democratic-political governing above,
       and the military obeying below. Or, perhaps, it would be better
       with nothing below, just completely level, without any military,
       and that is why the zapatistas are soldiers so that there will not
       be any soldiers. Fine, what we then did about this problem was to
       begin separating the political-military from the autonomous and
       democratic aspects of organization in the zapatista communities.
       And so, actions and decisions which had previously been made and
       taken by the EZLN were being passed, little by little, to the
       democratically elected authorities in the villages. It is easy to
       say, of course, but it was very difficult in practice, because
       many years have passed * first in the preparation for the war and
       then the war itself * and the political-military aspects have
       become customary. But, regardless, we did so because it is our way
       to do what we say, because, if not, why should we go around saying
       things if we do not then do them.
       That was how the Good Government Juntas were born, in August of
       2003, and, through them, self-learning and the exercise of *govern
       obeying* has continued.
       From that time and until the middle of 2005, the EZLN leadership
       has no longer involved itself in giving orders in civil matters,
       but it has accompanied and helped the authorities who are
       democratically elected by the peoples. It has also kept watch that
       the peoples and national and international civil society are kept
       well informed concerning the aid that is received and how it is
       used. And now we are passing the work of safeguarding good
       government to the zapatista support bases, with temporary
       positions which are rotated, so that everyone learns and carries
       out this work. Because we believe that a people which does not
       watch over its leaders is condemned to be enslaved, and we fought
       to be free, not to change masters every six years.
       The EZLN, during these 4 years, also handed over to the Good
       Government Juntas and the Autonomous Municipalities the aid and
       contacts which they had attained throughout Mexico and the world
       during these years of war and resistance. The EZLN had also,
       during that time, been building economic and political support
       which allowed the zapatista communities to make progress with
       fewer difficulties in the building of their autonomy and in
       improving their living conditions. It is not much, but it is far
       better than what they had prior to the beginning of the uprising
       in January of 1994. If you look at one of those studies the
       governments make, you will see that the only indigenous
       communities which have improved their living conditions * whether
       in health, education, food or housing * were those which are in
       zapatista territory, which is what we call where our villages are.
       And all of that has been possible because of the progress made by
       the zapatista villages and because of the very large support which
       has been received from good and noble persons, whom we call *civil
       societies,* and from their organizations throughout the world. As
       if all of these people have made *another world is possible* a
       reality, but through actions, not just words.
       And the villages have made good progress. Now there are more
       companeros and companeras who are learning to govern. And * even
       though little by little * there are more women going into this
       work, but there is still a lack of respect for the companeras, and
       they need to participate more in the work of the struggle. And,
       also through the Good Government Juntas, coordination has been
       improved between the Autonomous Municipalities and the resolution
       of problems with other organizations and with the official
       authorities. There has also been much improvement in the projects
       in the communities, and the distribution of projects and aid given
       by civil society from all over the world has become more level.
       Health and education have improved, although there is still a good
       deal lacking for it to be what it should be. The same is true for
       housing and food, and in some areas there has been much
       improvement with the problem of land, because the lands recovered
       from the finqueros are being distributed. But there are areas
       which continue to suffer from a lack of lands to cultivate. And
       there has been great improvement in the support from national and
       international civil society, because previously everyone went
       wherever they wanted, and now the Good Government Juntas are
       directing them to where the greatest need exists. And, similarly,
       everywhere there are more companeros and companeras who are
       learning to relate to persons from other parts of Mexico and of
       the world,. They are learning to respect and to demand respect.
       They are learning that there are many worlds, and that everyone
       has their place, their time and their way, and therefore there
       must be mutual respect between everyone.
       We, the zapatistas of the EZLN, have devoted this time to our
       primary force, to the peoples who support us. And the situation
       has indeed improved some. No one can say that the zapatista
       organization and struggle has been without point, but rather, even
       if they were to do away with us completely, our struggle has
       indeed been of some use.
       But it is not just the zapatista villages which have grown * the
       EZLN has also grown. Because what has happened during this time is
       that new generations have renewed our entire organization. They
       have added new strength. The comandantes and comandantas who were
       in their maturity at the beginning of the uprising in 1994 now
       have the wisdom they gained in the war and in the 12 years of
       dialogue with thousands of men and women from throughout the
       world. The members of the CCRI, the zapatista
       political-organizational leadership, is now counseling and
       directing the new ones who are entering our struggle, as well as
       those who are holding leadership positions. For some time now the
       *committees* (which is what we call them) have been preparing an
       entire new generation of comandantes and comandantas who,
       following a period of instruction and testing, are beginning to
       learn the work of organizational leadership and to discharge their
       duties. And it also so happens that our insurgents, insurgentas,
       militants, local and regional responsables, as well as support
       bases, who were youngsters at the beginning of the uprising, are
       now mature men and women, combat veterans and natural leaders in
       their units and communities. And those who were children in that
       January of *94 are now young people who have grown up in the
       resistance, and they have been trained in the rebel dignity lifted
       up by their elders throughout these 12 years of war. These young
       people have a political, technical and cultural training that we
       who began the zapatista movement did not have. This youth is now,
       more and more, sustaining our troops as well as leadership
       positions in the organization. And, indeed, all of us have seen
       the deceits by the Mexican political class and the destruction
       which their actions have caused in our patria. And we have seen
       the great injustices and massacres that neoliberal globalization
       causes throughout the world. But we will speak to you of that
       And so the EZLN has resisted 12 years of war, of military,
       political, ideological and economic attacks, of siege, of
       harassment, of persecution, and they have not vanquished us. We
       have not sold out nor surrendered, and we have made progress. More
       companeros from many places have entered into the struggle so
       that, instead of making us weaker after so many years, we have
       become stronger. Of course there are problems which can be
       resolved by more separation of the political-military from the
       civil-democratic. But there are things, the most important ones,
       such as our demands for which we struggle, which have not been
       fully achieved.
       To our way of thinking, and what we see in our heart, we have
       reached a point where we cannot go any further, and, in addition,
       it is possible that we could lose everything we have if we remain
       as we are and do nothing more in order to move forward. The hour
       has come to take a risk once again and to take a step which is
       dangerous but which is worthwhile. Because, perhaps united with
       other social sectors who suffer from the same wants as we do, it
       will be possible to achieve what we need and what we deserve. A
       new step forward in the indigenous struggle is only possible if
       the indigenous join together with workers, campesinos, students,
       teachers, employees*the workers of the city and the countryside.
       (To be continued*)
       From the mountains of the Mexican Southeast.
       Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous Committee * General Command
       of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation.
       Mexico, in the sixth month of the year 2005.
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